The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.   .....Sir Claus Moser, 21 August 1990

Commentary of the Day - September 28, 1999 (with addenda on Sept. 29, 1999):

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released data today showing that nationally fewer than 22% of 12th grade students in the United States can write proficiently.  A closer look at the statistics shows a significant difference between the achievement levels of public school students and their Catholic school counterparts.  On average, only 20% of public school 12th graders write proficiently, while 37% of Catholic high school seniors can actually write a paragraph that makes sense.  Clearly, this must be an example of the "plastic ruler" effect.  If the little beggars in those Catholic school classes keep their fingers moving across the paper (or keyboard) fast enough, Sister Mary Torquemada (of the Sisters of No Mercy) and her fellow parochial school teachers won't land as many whacks with the ruler.

Here at Krispy Kreme U it's quite obvious that something is amiss in the secondary schools.  At least half of our entering students are required to take remedial English, and most of the rest have trouble stringing together enough words to form a readable sentence.  Unfortunately, we are a significant part of the problem.  We educate train more than 60% of California's K-12 teachers, and in the Irascible Professor's humble opinion we do that job poorly.  Many of our graduates who pursue teaching credentials are unable to write a clear, coherent paragraph.

However, poor teacher training is only one of the reasons for poor student performance.  Parents who send their children to parochial schools make a financial sacrifice to do so.  Thus, they have a stake in the outcome, and pay attention to their children's progress.  In addition, teachers in parochial schools, whether lay or religious, hold their students to high standards.  Grade inflation and social promotion are almost unknown in these institutions.

At the same time the public schools have a very tough row to hoe.  They must take all students, regardless of ability, interest, or parental involvement.  Compounding the problem is the fact that in California too many public school teachers hold only emergency credentials.  Programs such as CalTEACH promise these underprepared teachers a credential through 18 months of part-time, distance learning experiences.  The Irascible Professor, however, doubts that many of these 18 month wonders will be much improved in the process.  Unfortunately, our system-wide administration is far more interested in the quantity of teachers that the system produces than in their quality.


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro