Questionable graduation rates: Some things never change in public education

High school students
Students walk through the halls of a high school in Philadelphia in 2013.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

To the editor: No observant person working in the public school system should be surprised by the lowering of the standards as a way to boost graduation rates. The goal has always been to improve the reputation of the school or district. (“In the search for better graduation rates, schools are fudging the numbers,” editorial, June 25)

I taught English as a second language for some 20 years. I saw frequent changes in the standards, which were always lowered and never raised.

Things happened like lowering the standard for redesignation, from fluency in speaking, reading and writing to fluency in speaking but limited proficiency in reading and writing. Students were no longer required to do minimally acceptable work (all Cs) in their content area classes. It was never to the students’ advantage to be removed from the support system and placed in regular classes when their English proficiency was too low to handle the work — but it made the district look good to redesignate so many students.

Some things never change. The school system still works for the adults, not the students.


Elizabeth Kerr, Ontario


To the editor: Many decades ago when I was a young man in the Navy, a wise old master chief told me, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

It seems as true today as it was then.


Kevin McGill, Chula Vista


To the editor: Everyone wants our kids learning better to best equip them for participating in society. That requires higher educational standards and graduation rates, not fudging the numbers to make those rates appear higher.

Algebra is more than just another math course; it teaches kids to analyze and solve problems, skills that are important throughout their lives. In my experience tutoring kids in algebra, it became apparent why the failure rate was so high: The kids had not learned the basics, and as they fell further behind, they gave up on learning.

Some years ago, a group of retired aerospace engineers (including myself) volunteered to help kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District master algebra. I contacted a highly regarded Board of Education member, who liked the idea. Later, the administration rejected the idea without providing a reason.

Ours is still a good idea.

George Epstein, Los Angeles

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