September 7 2012
Encouraging Success or Slacking Off?
Vicki E. Alger
More New Jersey students need to pass their coursework. And Hudson County’s Bayonne High School has a plan. More time on task? Intensive tutoring? Nope. School officials are going dumb down passing score from 70 percent to 65 percent.
In New Jersey, districts set their own passing rates, which go as low as 60 percent in some districts.
So are school officials encouraging students to succeed or slack off? “Now that you know that you can pass with a 65, why try your hardest when all you have to do is get a 67, and you’re good,” said Bayonne High School senior Amanda Pacheco during a Fox News 29 interview (starting at 36 seconds). School officials countered that “success leads to more success” (at 1.33 minutes). School Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan said in a prepared statement, “We have very high expectations and standards for each one of our students. However, we must be sensitive to the unique challenges they face and provide strategies and interventions that help all students achieve their goals.” (staring at 1.39 minutes)
Parents who agree that a 65 percent passing rate equates with success should have every right to send their children to schools that agree with them. Of course, such parents will also likely have to make time for a serious facts-of-life conversation with their children before they graduate, since most employers won’t be paying them 100 percent salary for 65 percent (or less) work.
For parents who prefer a higher success standard, the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act (A-2830) could have helped. This pilot program would have allowed businesses to make scholarship donations so low-income children attending some of the state’s lowest performing, chronically failing public schools could attend better out-of-district public schools, or participating non-public schools statewide.
In spite of strong bi-partisan support, and enough votes to pass in both the State Assembly and Senate, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver refused to schedule a vote on the OSA in late June. Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to revisit this plan.
Shenanigans like these are just one reason parents are demanding education options for their children. Parental choice gives schools the freedom to define success any way they wish. Only when students aren’t a captive audience, however, do schools actually have to face the consequences of their actions.