Our Uneducated Educators
On the ignorance of school administrators.
There is a troubling paradox at the heart of America's efforts to reform the public schools. After many decades of clamor for change and improved student achievement, one of the few groups that seem to lack any sense of urgency is also one of the most important: the principals and other administrators who actually lead the schools. Having long resisted state-mandated tests as intrusive and inaccurate assessments of "mere" basic skills and contrary to the true spirit of education, they now cite rising scores on such exams as evidence of success. Never mind the evidence of our senses, much less of international comparisons that show American students barely able to outperform their peers in Cyprus. The nation's youngsters are meeting "world class" standards. The principals and the educationist brain trust in the university-based schools of education have the problem largely in hand. Students in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, watch out--graduates of American high schools now read at least at the ninth grade level.
Some light is shed on this paradox if one asks a simple question: who is the best-educated person at your local high school, the person whose sterling academic and intellectual accomplishments serve as a model and inspiration for students and faculty? Most likely it is not the principal or even the superintendent of the district, but the valedictorian or salutatorian of the graduating class, or perhaps another student in the top five percent of the senior class. One of my former students, for example, passed advanced placement (AP) exams in chemistry, biology, American history, English, calculus, and Latin, making the highest possible score of 5 on all but one, on which he scored a 4; the minimum passing score is 3. By passing those exams, he demonstrated his mastery of the subjects at the college level and earned college credit in those fields. Many other students can boast of similar accomplishments. Can their principals and superintendents?