Just as young people were headed to universities across the nation and the K-12 back-to-school season was percolating in parents' minds, a front-page Washington Times' headline disclosed on August 17: "Scores show students aren't ready for college--75% may need remedial classes."
A statistic like 75 percent gets people's attention. Worse, the Times article quoted an education advocacy group's finding that "80 percent of college students taking remedial classes [in 2008] had a high school GPA of 3.0 or better." So apparently, even hen students score well, they don't know much. How is that even possible?
At least one luminary at the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd) decided not to sugar-coat it: Longtime former U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics, Pascal D. Forgione. Jr., Ph.D., now persona non grata within the department's hierarchy, issued an indictment of American schools in 1999 that surfaced on the Internet, despite mighty efforts by component agencies like the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to scuttle it.
"Our idea of 'advanced' is clearly below international standards," he admonished in his now-famous speech.
Same story in 2011. Associated Press publicized the news September 14 that "SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995," as written in a Washington Times report by Justin Pope.
Predictably, explanations--or excuses--for the poor showings ranged from the "increasingly diverse group of test-takers" to the ever-broadening "test pool." But at the end of the day, Bob Schaeffer, public education director of a group called Fair Test, admitted in the Times piece: "Yes, changing test-taker demographics matter, [but] no, they don't explain an 18-point drop [in combined scores] over five years."
Dr Forgione quotes other worthies such as Jean McLaughlin, president of Barry University, who has long criticized the public schools' foray into "social re-engineering" at the expense of proficiency in subject matter. This view was seconded by the superintendent of the nation's fourth largest school district in Miami-Dade, Florida, who complained: "Half our job is education, and the other half is social work."
It's more like 61 percent--a combination of attitudinal propagandizing, personality profiling, and mental-"health" screening, as was initially discovered in Pennsylvania's Educational Quality Assessment (EQA), discussed further on.
Dr. Forgione exposed how schools systematically let kids down. "By grade 4, American students only score in the middle of 26 countries reported. By grade 8 they are in the bottom third, and at the finish line, where it really counts, we're near dead last. It's even worse when you notice that some of the superior countries in grade 8 (especially the Asians) were not included in pulylished 12th grade results. They do not [even] need 12 grades." (See Table 1 on page 26.)
Dr. Forgione is highly credible. An Internet search of his various appointments, reports, and testimonies over the years reveals an intimate familiarity with all aspects of DoEd's data-collection, assessment, and computer systems, as well as international, cooperating agencies working directly or indirectly with the U.S. education establishment. So, when Dr. Forgione says that pupils' ongoing poor showing in science, math, and reading is directly tied to weak curriculum, he ought to know.
The DoEd soon devised a remedy for that. Given Dr. Forgione's stinging reproach, department heads at NCES talked European educators into integrating the one remaining legitimate test in the world, the TIMSS (Third International Math & Science Study) with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), then watering both down to …