Letter to the Editor, U.S. News and World Report
Ben Wildavsky’s dispatch from Waco, Texas, in the July 19 issue (“When Johnny can’t read — try tough love”) conveyed the pain that will be felt as accountability comes to communities serious about school reform. Setting standards and writing tests was a breeze, comparatively.
Now comes a wall to run through — or not: dealing with the consequences of failure.
Who couldn’t feel sympathy for 200 Waco students who face being retained in grade for a second straight year for failure to pass their coursework and/or the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS)? But the one thing schools committed to the greater good must not do, if they are serious about quality, is give in and just pass along to the next grade pupils who haven’t mastered their current level.
In Waco — largely poor and minority — the fruits of ending social promotion are starting to taste sweeter, as failure rates on the TAAS plummet. By saying “no excuses, you must clear this bar,” the schools may be inflicting temporary pain, but they are smashing the tyranny of low expectations that has oppressed minority children for ages.
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