Monday, August 14, 2006


An appeals court ruled Friday that a trial judge exceeded his authority -- and missed the point -- in ordering that diplomas be awarded to disadvantaged high school seniors who couldn't pass the California exit exam in time to graduate with the class of 2006. The state Court of Appeal upheld the exit exam as a diploma requirement. It agreed with the trial judge, however, that the students' right to prepare for the must-pass test probably had been violated by schools that continue to provide a deficient education despite a decade of reform efforts by civil rights groups, the governor and the Legislature

The justices urged the state, the students' lawyers and the trial judge, Robert Freedman of Alameda County, to cooperate on finding a way to help next year's seniors qualify for their diplomas. "A high school diploma is not an education, any more than a birth certificate is a baby," Presiding Justice Ignazio Ruvolo wrote in holding that Freedman correctly perceived the problem but not the solution. Awarding the diplomas would have perpetuated "a bitter hoax," signaling that students who lack basic academic skills are equipped to compete successfully in life, the decision said.

The immediate legal effect will be minimal. The ruling reversed Freedman's May order to award the diplomas to students who met all requirements except passing the exit exam -- 47,000 at the time. The order was stayed by the state Supreme Court before any diplomas were handed out. But the appellate ruling set up a Supreme Court appeal on behalf of the 40,000 members of the class of 2006 who still haven't passed. Arturo Gonzalez, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said those students "are unlikely to benefit from any remedial measure that might be implemented at this late date." He said he'll continue pressing for diplomas and will ask the Supreme Court within 10 days to review Friday's ruling.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell -- who called the Court of Appeal decision a validation of the state's efforts to raise educational standards and opportunities -- said he was willing to talk to the plaintiffs about resolving the issues, as the court urged. He said he was "overall pleased" with progress made in getting help to students who need it. In the coming academic year, that will include budgeted funds to provide $500 to schools for every senior who hasn't yet passed the exam and some juniors. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state budget includes "more than $75 million for additional support services and instructional study materials."

Since the state Supreme Court's stay order, local school officials have crafted a host of tutoring and counseling programs targeting students in need of help. At Hiram Johnson High School, where 28 members of the class of 2006 failed the May exam, about 20 are expected to return for a fifth year of high school and probably will retake the test in October, said Assistant Principal Michael Crosby. "The programs will be available to them," he said. "All they have to do is apply themselves."



Leading state schools have joined a growing defection by the independent sector away from the official exam system amid worries over the declining quality of A-levels. The schools have decided to enter pupils for the International Baccalaureate (IB), a Swiss-run qualification seen by many as more broadly based and challenging than British exams. More than 100 British schools will offer the baccalaureate in the next academic year, almost three times more than in 2000. Its growing popularity comes as results to be published this week are expected to show a rise in the A-level pass rate for the 24th year in succession.

Examiners expect the results, which will be released to schools on Thursday, to show a pass rate of more than 96%. The results will fuel criticism that the system fails to stretch or identify the brightest pupils. Universities have complained there are so many students with A grades they can no longer judge ability from exam results.

Leading state schools already offering the baccalaureate include Kingshurst city technology college in Birmingham, which has scrapped A-levels. Most of the 50 state schools that offer the qualification do so alongside A-levels. Six state schools that will offer the IB for the first time from September include Thomas Hardye school in Dorchester, Dorset, which has exam results above the national average, and Norton Knatchbull boys’ grammar school in Ashford, Kent.

Two independent schools — Sevenoaks, in Kent, and King’s College, Wimbledon, London — have abandoned A-levels for the baccalaureate. Independent schools offering the option of the baccalaureate include Fettes College in Edinburgh, Tony Blair’s old school, and North London Collegiate, one of the academically most successful schools.

Pupils who opt for the IB are required to study the humanities and sciences. They typically study six subjects, including English and maths, a language, a science, a social science, such as history or geography, and a creative subject such as drama or art. Pupils also have to write a 4,000-word essay, study the theory of knowledge and undertake community work.

The temptation of the IB will be increased by new figures suggesting further deterioration in the reputation of A-levels. There were steep falls in the numbers studying difficult subjects such as maths and physics between 2000 and 2005, but in media studies and religious studies, candidates grew by more than 80%. In an attempt to counter criticism of “dumbed down” exams, Jim Knight, the schools minister, said last week the government intended to trial harder questions in A-level papers and would experiment with a long essay or extended project. Ministers are also considering introducing a new A* grade that would be given to the top 7% of candidates.

From next year universities will be able to specify the grade they require for all six units that make up each A-level, rather than the one overall grade they currently demand for each. The traditional two-year “gold standard” A-level was scrapped in 2000 when David Blunkett was education secretary. Replacement A-levels have been split into two halves — AS-level and A2. Each subject in turn is split into six units, with pupils allowed an unlimited number of retakes

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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