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New Tests, Old Story

8:44 AM, Aug 8, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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In New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the tests in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department.

This was reported yesterday, by Javier C. Hernandez reports in the New York Times.

Nothing in this morning's paper about mass demonstrations, the circulation of recall petitions, or demands from prominent activists that someone be fired or otherwise held accountable. The paper's editorial board turned its attention to the fast food industry, where "strikes over low wages will continue until corporate and political leaders do something."

This can be accounted for, of course, by the fact that the dismal test scores story is old news. Very old. The public education story, since at least the advent of the U.S. Department of Education, can be summed up in the phrase: "Spent more; got less." 

It is true, however, that the same old failures are periodically repackaged. Thus "No Child Left Behind" becomes "Race to the Top." So, as Mr. Hernandez reports, this year we have a new yardstick by which to measure failure. The tests on which students scored so miserably were "some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as the Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving over short answers and memorization. Last year, under an easier test, 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math."

The tests have, of course, been criticized and perhaps justly so. But it would be hard to find anyone who believes that there is good news hidden somewhere in these results. Or that things will get better any time soon and New York's students will leave school as fully educated adults. 

Which explains, perhaps, why the Times editors worry about wages in the fast food industry.

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