Stories from the education system

Half of Florida high school students fail state reading test, billions misspent in Britain on failing preschool program, and self-esteem training gone wild as schools choose not to correct spelling errors. Photo: Associated Press

Tales of incompetent educators, short-sighted policies, and the general failure of the public education system

DALLAS, May 26, 2012 — It’s been another month of madness in the world of public education, with half of Florida’s high school students failing the reading portion of the state standardized test, a study from Britain indicating that billions of pounds spend on early-childhood education have been wasted, and reports that schools are deliberately failing to correct spelling errors in order to avoid damaging pupils’ self esteem.

Half of Florida students fail reading portion of new state test

Reuters reported last week that almost half of Florida high school students failed the reading portion of the state’s new standardized test. Only 52% of freshman and 50% of sophomores managed to score at their grade levels. According to Reuters, students in the 10th grade must pass the exam in order to eventually graduate but can retake it if they fail. More information about the new test is available on the Florida Depart of Education website. The test had been toughened since last year and Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said in a statement: “We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have, and I am proud of their hard work.”  

While Robinson’s optimism may be entertaining, it certainly isn’t laudable, considering that the disappointment at hand concerns the mental well-being and competence of an entire generation of Floridians. The sample reading questions for the new test, which are available online, deal with non-fiction articles and a user’s manual which the student is expected to read before answering a series of comprehension questions. The fact that only half of Florida’s high school students were able to earn even a passing grade on this test raises questions about these students’ abilities to process and understand ideas presented in the written form. How will a barely literate population become informed and how will it know how to weigh and consider the opinions it encounters?

While Florida’s long-term prospects may seem grim, a little investigation into the state’s testing system might explain why the Florida Department of Education does not appear to be overly concerned by the test results. Only days before the test was administered, the State Board of Education had met in an emergency session to lower the standards needed to pass the writing portion of the test. Preliminary results had indicated that only about one-third of students would pass the writing portion.

After all, why should the Board of Education fret themselves over the concerns of the future generation? They won’t even be here to see most of it!  

Head Start disappointments

Even as President Obama’s new Life of Julia campaign meme stirs up controversy among politically liberal and conservative pundits alike, another disturbing story from Florida raises some questions about the prudence of touting the early-childhood education program, Head Start. The Life of Julia, which seeks to “take a look at how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime—and how Mitt Romney would change her story,” speaks glowingly of Head Start. It proclaims:

“Under President Obama, Julia is enrolled in a Head Start program to help get her ready for school. Because of steps President Obama has taken to improve programs like this one, Julia joins thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.”

Unfortunately for President Obama’s campaign, the Miami Herald had some sad news to report this month concerning the Head Start program, as Miami-Dade county chose to offload the administration of the program to other agencies due to generous salaries that the county says have become too extravagant. The Herald reports that Miami-Dade paid its Head Start teachers an average of $76,860 in salary and fringe benefits in 2011, which is about 90 percent higher than the second highest-paying Head Start provider in the county, Catholic Charities, which paid its teachers an average of $40,418 in salary and benefits. On the administrative side, 17 county Head Start staffers made more than $100,000 in salary and benefits.

Lisa Martinez, senior advisor to the Miami-Dade county mayor, told reporters that the county hopes to save more than $3 million annually by outsourcing the program.

How much good does Head Start really do? A new report from Britain concerning that nation’s state-funded pre-school education program suggests that even if the checks were in place to keep local officials from robbing underprivileged children, state programs for early-childhood education may be grossly overrated.

The Telegraph reported Tuesday that Members of Parliament (MPs) are claiming billions of pounds worth of public money invested in pre-school education is failing to improve children’s grasp of the basics. According to the Telegraph, assessments carried out last summer showed some 15 percent of seven-year-olds – 80,000 – were unable to read after two full years of primary school and that data also showed one-in-five infants were failing to write to the expected standard. A further 10 percent are struggling with basic numeracy.

Schools deliberately choosing not to correct spelling mistakes in order to prevent damage to self-esteem

British MP Andrew Selous revealed earlier this month that teachers are being told not to correct more than three spelling errors at a time in order to avoid damaging pupils’ self-confidence. The Daily Mail reported on the story recently, citing the case of a mother who wrote to Selous saying, “I have spent hours of frustration letter-writing but no one is able to help or offer support. My children are hard-working but they need to be given the basic building blocks of English.”  According to the Daily Mail, the school’s marking policy states, “Teaching staff are not to highlight any more than three incorrect spellings on any piece of work. This is in order that the children’s self-confidence is not damaged.”

The sad facts of life happen to be that if a child’s self-confidence is not damaged (as this school puts it) when they are young, it will most assuredly be damaged when they are older and discover themselves to be entirely incompetent and unable to find employment or succeed in the fields of higher education.


A history buff, self-taught artist, and enthusiastic autodidact, Bryana brings her always politically incorrect and usually passionate views about politics and the theory of government to her readers. In addition to writing for the TWTC, she also writes for The College Conservative and maintains the official High Tide Journal at www.thehightide.com. You can also find her on twitter at @HighTideJournal and on facebook.


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Bryana Johnson

Passionate about liberty, and the theory of government, Bryana serves as the vice president of a local political club and reports on political happenings around the globe.
 
In addition to her political activities, Bryana has won prizes in multiple poetry contests and her first poetry collection, Having Decided To Stay, was released in 2012. She writes regularly about the good life, literature and the world’s great Lover over at www.bryanajohnson.com. You can follow her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook. 

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