Jay Mathews -- Public schools are mostly successful at finding people who know how to teach English, math, history and science, but we don’t know how to encourage creativity very well and might find it better to let the gifted do their own exploring.
Jay Mathews - Several Virginia school boards and other prominent groups have asked the General Assembly to junk the current testing system in favor of something deeper and smarter that takes less time. The D.C. school administration is struggling over how best to score its annual exams. Montgomery County is wondering what to do about low scores on several annual tests it gives high school students.
This might be a good time for a testing holiday.
Grade inflation in U.S. schools is both troublesome and common. We don’t want our children entering college or the workplace wrongly thinking they can handle the challenge because of lies on their report cards. Fortunately, there are ways for parents to check their school’s commitment to reality.
Jay Mathews - Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses are the most challenging assignments in most U.S. high schools. The AP exams, written and graded by outside experts including college faculty, are usually three hours long and contain several essay questions. They are much tougher than typical high school course finals. It is exasperating to be told you have to do it again because of someone else’s mistake.
Jay Mathews -- U.S. education lusts for STEM. Prepare to be pitied if you ask at a school conference what the acronym means (science, technology, engineering, math). There are STEM schools, STEM programs, STEM books, STEM experts. STEM grant applications get more respect. Everybody says STEM careers mean more money. I Googled STEM and got 146 million results.
Jay Mathews -- The largest and, as far as I can tell, the most effective college readiness program in the country is called AVID, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It was created by a San Diego English teacher in 1980 to help 32 average kids from low-income families develop academic and life skills. Now it has 250,000 students in 48 states, the District and several foreign countries, more than 90 percent of whom go on to college.
When Dylan Presman, president of the Rockville High School PTSA, discovered that a majority of Montgomery County high school students were failing countywide final math exams, he said, “When you’re talking about half a group failing, there’s something seriously wrong.”
Jay Mathews -- We are in the midst of a national debate over the worth of Advanced Placement courses and tests in high school. The weight of opinion so far is on the side of AP. The program is growing. Thousands of college professors and tens of thousands of high school teachers support it. Most of the available data shows that high school students who do well in AP courses and tests do better in college than students who do not take AP.
Jay Mathews -- Almost all colleges give credit for good scores on AP tests because the program prepares students for the rigor of higher education and in many cases, according to research, teaches them more than they would get in college introductory courses. But a few colleges have succumbed to their faculty’s resentment of high school teachers showing them up.
Jay Mathews -- If you were waiting as I was for a firsthand account of test tampering at a D.C. public school, it came this week. A 42-year-old former principal says she was reduced to tears and hounded out of her job after she reported cheating at her Northeast Washington campus.