When 45 percent of Pennsylvania's 127,000 high-school seniors fail basic reading and math exams, when close to 75 percent of Philadelphia's 2006 graduates don't pass them, what is to be done? The state's education secretary, Gerald Zahorchak, has an answer. He wants Pennsylvania's Board of Education to create ten Graduation Competency Assessments, at least six of which a student would have to pass in order to graduate. The youth disapprove. Jamillah Hannibal, a Philadelphia student who failed the state math exam but has already been accepted to college, said, "I can do the work, but tests are not my strong point. I've worked my four years so hard to graduate, and [under the proposed regulations] I couldn't see my diploma because of one test? That's wrong." No, Jamillah. What's wrong is sending 18-year-olds into the world without basic reading and math skills. Gadfly applauds Zahorchak for speaking out on the Keystone State's low expectations. Still, the Board of Education should tread deliberately and carefully as it moves ahead; end of course exams are useful but tricky things. In the words of Poor Richard, "Well done is better than well said."
"Receiving diplomas without skills," by Dan Hardy, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 2008