The Problem of Inadequate Secondary Education

If you had a suspicion that our high schools are not adequately preparing the students, we now have some verification. One out of six Maryland high school students are not passing the High School Assessments.

The HSAs are a series of tests in algebra, government, biology, and English. Originally, the state thought to require passing the HSAs in order to earn a diploma. Then students were given an out; those who failed twice could complete “an academic project” in lieu of passing the test. At some schools (like Einstein High), nearly a third of students don’t pass the tests.

The logical plan of action, of course, is to make the standard easier; MoCo school superintendent Jerry Weast is in favor of getting rid of the requirement altogether.

Then, you pass the problem on to the next guy (the college, or the employer), and let him deal with it.

The problem shows up in the college, of course. Here in Montgomery County, it shows up most clearly at our community college. An analysis by the Washington Examiner shows that 2/3 of entrants at Montgomery College need remedial courses. For graduates coming from some Montgomery schools (Einstein, Wheaton, Blake), the number hovers around 80%. A related article laments not only the lost time, but the costs of not learning the first time around, noting that a student had to pay about $600 for one such remedial offering. But the costs aren’t just the tuition the student pays. What about the costs to the taxpayer for ineffective education in the high school?  What about the resulting costs of high school dropouts?

We need more choices and more variety from our monolithic public school system. Public charters are a great way to achieve that. Just over the border in DC, charter schools abound. Some fail, but that’s good. Some public schools should be allowed to fail and close up, too. Overall, though, the students in DC’s charter schools are outperforming students in the traditional public schools. The charter schools have been demonstrated to be particularly effective for low-income students. Meanwhile, there are still no charter schools in Montgomery County.

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