Dumbing down not the answer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

To the Editor:

I read with interest Mr. Gerald Shirley’s Letter to the Editor regarding Alabama’s high school exit exam. And, unless I am sadly mistaken, if you follow Mr. Shirley’s reasoning, we need to “dumb down” the exit exam so that we will have more high school graduates since he feels that students begin to drop out in the 9th grade (well before they can take the exit exam) because they know that they can not pass the exit exam. Sadly, Mr. Shirley’s letter leaves out many pieces of information that need to be addressed.

1. Mr. Shirley, what level does this test seek to test competency levels for a high school diploma? Is it not a fact that this test is on a basic fundamental beginning tenth grade level and not a true high school (12th grade) level?

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2. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public what are the “passing scores” for the exit exam? How far below 70 percent correct answers is an acceptable score to pass a section. Please, do not lead us to believe the allegation that 70 percent correct responses are required to pass a section of the exit exam.

3. Mr. Shirley, if the exit exams are so hard, can you name me one enrolled student who could not pass the exit exams and yet passed the GED exam in lieu of passing the exit exams in order to obtain high school diploma?

4. Mr. Shirley, if the exit exam is so hard, then please tell the public why do approximately 25 percent of the high school graduates have to take remedial courses at the Community College level to get ready for Community College courses?

5. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why the school systems are so “lax” in enforcing attendance policies? Are you aware that I handled a case where the child had more than 40 UNEXCUSED absences in November but no legal action was taken to involve the court system until April?

6. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why it is rare that we have a Juvenile Court session where there is not at least one case on the docket where the school systems took no legal action as required by law until after the child has so many UNEXCUSED absences that the child could not pass regardless of their grades.

7. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why a child can keep attending school after failing numerous sections of the exit exam and the school system does not DEMAND parental involvement in MANDATORY remedial education?

8. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why our state would in any way benefit from having a “dumbed down” high school diploma that does not even require an end of the tenth grade comprehension of school material.

9. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why a child at your school who had missed more than two months of schooling was allowed to pass on to the next grade. I was involved with you in that case lest you have forgotten.

10. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why a principal looked me in the face and said that a child who was not in Special Education WAS going to be promoted when the child could not read or write and could only “block print” his name.

11. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why it is not time for the school system to take responsibility for forcing parental involvement (even if legal action that is available is required) so that our children do in fact receive a quality education.

12. Mr. Shirley, please tell the public why a student I was tutoring had to suffer through a teacher who had 28 misspelled words on a hand written study sheet that the teacher gave the students to study for an exam.

Why shouldn’t a high school diploma in Alabama “mean something?” And, why shouldn’t the school systems start demanding parental involvement and teacher competency rather than desiring to “dumb down” a high school diploma? The huge number of our teachers are very competent. So, why does the AEA, other organizations and certain colleges continue to fight the rights of our children to be taught by competent teachers?

Don’t our children deserve the very best? Or, is a “dumbed down” high school diploma the answer?

Blanchard L. McLeod Jr.