The Decline of Standards

This is the 74th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

A big city school system requires a student in the seventh grade to be able to read as well as a fifth grader, who, by the way, must be able to read as well as a fourth grader, who, in turn, must be able to read as well as a third grader.
What’s wrong with demanding that a seventh grader be required to read like a seventh grader?
How would you like to be operated on by a brain surgeon who graduated from a school that allowed its students to be a year and a half behind in their skills?

I’m not really sure what Harry is talking about here. I can’t imagine that a school system would permit such standards. Is he suggesting that to pass seventh grade, a student only needs to be able to read at the third grade level?

I know that our public school system has some significant problems, but is it that bad? There may be isolated instances of such a situation, but on average, I would assume that when standards are set, the standards are different for each grade level. Otherwise, why have grade levels?

I wonder what Harry would say about the Common Core. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K–12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce. While 42 states have adopted the Common Core, it remains a controversial topic.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Common Core. On the one hand, Bill Gates is a big supporter, and I usually agree with the initiatives that he supports. On the other hand, I know a couple of public school teachers who are strongly against the use of the Common Core.

I think both sides have the same goal, to improve student learning; where they differ is in terms of what approach is most effective in accomplishing such a goal.

So I think the fact that there is a common goal should make it easier for people to arrive at an approach that is effective and that the majority can agree on.

And that’s the type of solution I think would ease Harry Gray’s concerns…

*By the way, this is the penultimate ad in this series of ads that United Technologies published in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

**I look for every opportunity to use the word ‘penultimate’, it’s one of my favorites…