I looked out my window last week thinking about last May when my granddaughter graduated from high school.
The excitement of the graduates and their families expressed the pride and joy of the occasion.
There are a lot of sad faces at high school graduations across the country this year.
Several hundred Nevada seniors will not get a diploma until they pass the math portion of the new final exam required of all graduates.
The news accounts of the Arizona AIMS testing requirements have reported so much change that I no longer know what is required.
I am sure every parent and senior does know.
All this push for testing to provide accountability of schools is getting out of hand.
Seems to me that the students are the ones getting the pressure and suffering when they do not pass some portion of all the exams state governments are requiring.
Setting the high jump bar at a higher level does nothing to make all students better high jumpers.
Some are just not going to make it at a higher level.
I doubt that setting higher standards through testing is going to make all students better at math or whatever.
Some, for a hundred different reasons, just will not pass.
Ages ago when I was in grade school, Oregon required students to pass a history of Oregon test to graduate from the eighth grade.
It was a two-room school with grades 5 to 8 in one room.
The teacher taught the Oregon history course to all of us early in the school year and gave the exam.
Two of us passed.
She taught it again and again until everyone had passed by the end of the school year.
My classmates may not have learned anything else that year except Oregon history, but they did pass the state history exam and graduate.
I have wondered over the years how many of them used that knowledge in later life.
Good schools are important to all.
Someone has to define "good" schools.
The definition will always reflect some group's idea of what schools should do and try to measures outcomes that fit that idea.
Unfortunately, agreement on what schools should teach and what graduates should know will never be reached.
If we agreed on the outcomes, how to test would still be open to question.
I had to take remedial music classes on Saturday's when I enrolled at Arthur Murray's Dance Studio.
My music education in elementary and high school just did not happen.
Did the school fail me? That high school had an excellent music program with an award- winning band and a good vocal program.
Those excellent musicians would not graduate from high school in Las Vegas unless they could pass the math exam.
I believe a "one-size-fits-all" exam that all students must pass prior to graduation is wrong.
Schools and teachers would have no alternative except to build curriculum and instruction around the exam questions.
Students would take more instruction in the exam areas and be given fewer choices of electives that could better fit both their abilities and life goals.
There will always be students with learning difficulties and economic restrictions that would make learning enough to pass a common exam impossible.
Should certain groups of students be exempted from the state exams? That gets to be a real slippery slope, too.
I say let teachers teach and let students be responsible for learning.
Teaching and learning are not the same.
Schools have been given impossible tasks in the United States.
Teachers are expected to level the playing field for all who enter the school door.
It would tale miracle workers to take a group of first graders speaking different languages and with a range of abilities and motivation and have all of them at the top of the class in 12 years.
Education is the great equalizer that opens doors for individuals in this "Land of Opportunity." Newspapers are full of great stories every graduation time depicting the success of some individual who has beat the odds.
I love those stories.
But, it is crazy to expect teachers to motivate and produce that kind of success with each one who comes through the classroom door.
This is the only country in the world that attempts to educate every individual.
Only in this great country would any one even dream "No child left behind."
A salute to our educators and the impossible task they are asked to perform is in order.