Charter schools outperform other public schools

When nearly half of New York City public school graduates who go to community college there have to take remedial classes in English and math, something is terribly wrong (“Nearly half of NYC DOE grads at CUNY need remedial classes,” New York Post, Feb. 25).  For these appalling results, it costs the city $35,941 per student.

In contrast, charter schools that don’t produce results are shut down. Meanwhile, traditional public schools continue to shortchange students. It’s a scandal that should outrage taxpayers. It’s why so many parents pull their children out and send them to religious and private schools if they can’t get them in charter schools.

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The college degree obstacle in hiring

For far too long, a college degree was required for a good job. That is finally changing in the government sector, where knowledge and skills are being properly valued (“Skills Beat Degrees for Government Jobs,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15).

The change is long overdue if for no other reason than a college degree has been so watered down that it tells employers very little. That’s particularly the case with certain majors.  I question whether majoring in, say, gender studies makes an applicant more valuable than an applicant who possesses wherewithal picked up elsewhere.

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College Board in spotlight over new AP course

When the College Board unveiled its new Advanced Placement African American studies course, it once again found itself the center of controversy (“Skirmish over AP course raises questions – again – about College Board’s mission,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 20). Long criticized as the gatekeeper for college admissions because of the SAT, this time the subject was more political.

But overall the more important question is whether the College Board has too much power over what is taught in classrooms.  I believe that its main concern is making money rather than expanding access to higher education. In 2020, for example, it earned $779.6 million, with its AP programs alone totaling $448 million.

I’ve written often before about the misuse of standardized testing in general and about the SAT in particular.  The brouhaha over the AP African American course won’t be the last time the College Board finds itself under fire.

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LSAT still needed by law schools

The debate over whether the LSAT should be a requirement for admission to law school is reminiscent of the debate over whether the SAT should be a requirement for admission to college (“Do Law Schools Need the LSAT? Here’s How to Understand the Debate,” The New York Times, Feb. 18). Both involve the predictive value of standardized tests.

Colleges that have made the SAT optional have reported little or no difference in on-time graduation between submitters and non-submitters. But law school is different because those who don’t score high on the LSAT will likely not pass the state bar exam that follows. That means they will have spent three years and thousands of dollars for little reward.

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School reform begins with parental choice

Despite indisputable evidence that the time has come for drastic change in how we educate children, reformers persist in trying to resuscitate existing schools (“America Should Be in the Middle of a Schools Revolution,” The New York Times, Feb. 17).  It’s a futile effort.

The facts are there.  K-12 public school enrollment fell by 1.1 million in the first full academic year. Parents are fed up with the status quo, but are stymied by vested interests. No matter how much more money is spent on public schools, little will change. 

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Meritocracy is wrongly attacked

In an attempt to create equity in education, meritocracy is attacked because critics say it is largely the result of luck (“A Belief in Meritocracy Is Not Only False: It’s Bad for You,”, Feb. 10).  There is an element of truth in that belief, but it grossly overstates the issue.

The truth is that despite their background, students make choices about learning.  Some are willing to work harder than others. We should reward them for their efforts and not make them feel guilty because they succeed while others fail. Only the U.S. does not give proper support to students at the top. Instead, they fixate on those at the bottom.

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Trigger warnings do more harm than good

Trigger warnings for college students are well intentioned, but they not only do little to protect students, but they actually have the potential to exacerbate the trauma (“Do Trigger Warnings Help or Hurt Students?” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11). That’s because facing something distressing rather than avoiding it has been found to be highly effective in reducing anxiety.

Moreover, if college students are protected from disturbing material, what will happen when they graduate and enter the real world?  They will be in for a terrible shock.  So if preparing students for life is a goal, then we shortchange them by trigger warnings.

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Students with disabilities illegally removed from school

Although federal law requires public schools to teach students with disabilities, they are sometimes secretly removed (“How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School,” The New York Times, Feb. 10). They do so because these students often disrupt the classroom.

Schools get away with the practice because they are not required to report them in the same manner as formal suspensions and expulsions. As a result, there’s no way to know exactly how common the practice is. But one thing is certain: These informal removals leave such students adrift. 

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The cause of the war on standards

The obsession with racial balance on college campuses has resulted in lower admission standards and lower grading standards (“Black Students Need Better Schools, Not Lower Standards,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 8).  Diversity, equity and inclusion are today’s goals, with standards never mentioned.

By pandering to calls to increase the percentage of Blacks in colleges and universities, we don’t help them.  China and India correctly recognize the importance of meritocracy for their futures.  That’s why they are going to leave us in the dust.  If we genuinely want to help Blacks, then improve the schools they attend.

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Bachelor’s degree in less than four years

For as long as I can remember, a standard bachelor’s degree required completion of 120 credit hours that were spread out over four years (“College Doesn’t Need to Take Four Years,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 3).  Occasionally, a few students would compress the time it took to 3 ½ years by going to summer school and taking more than five classes per semester.  But they were exceptions.

With tuition showing no signs of slowing, I think it’s time to allow students to get their degrees in three years.  They can do so particularly in vocational areas by letting them earn credits from technical or trade colleges.  There is no reason that 120 credit hours should remain the sole basis. Count only those credit hours directly pertinent to the major.

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