Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: Issue of failing students must be addressed soon

It seems that last year 1,000 third-graders had failed English and math exams, but after a case-by-case analysis, some 82 percent passed the exams on their second try and were promoted. Sounds good.I am curious if they took the same exams or had similar content but different tests. I remember proctoring a reading test and one boy commented, "It is the same test I took last time." When I taught high school social studies, about 30 percent of the students dropped out of school because they had to repeat each class failed. By the 10th grade students realized that they were falling behind so they dropped out of school. There were many reasons for their failing, but the fact was that they were failing.I seem to remember that when I was in the eighth grade of elementary school there were a few 16-year-old students in my class, which in those days was the last year of elementary school. The system now evaluates each child and provides tutoring, either prior to the school day or on Saturdays or on holidays. Hopefully, they are testing failing children for mineral or hormonal imbalances. Hopefully, individual or small group tutoring is helping the children. Hopefully, they are not giving the exact same test or a watered-down test just so they can pass.Recent articles have told how far down the United States is in mathematics competency. Easier tests will not make our students more world competitive but will just weaken our ability to compete in the world. Passing students will not keep us a world power unless their passing means something academically. Keeping the honors classes large or not providing the latest in scientific equipment or books will not give us the scientific and academic edge we need to be a productive nation.Harping on administrators to make everyone pass when some students, for various reasons, just can't learn much will not provide the quality students we need. It will just lead to cheating.Years ago there were vocational high schools and vocational diplomas. Today many vocational shops and vocational classes are being eliminated and being replaced by technical programs that require a high degree of scientific and mathematical skills. What do you do with those students who can't do advanced work or think logically? Does it pay to spend a lot of money on marginal students who will not be able to contribute a great deal to our advanced society?We will have to make decisions in the next couple of years. Not every student can be a professor or a scientist or linguist or learn to read well enough to pass tests. What do we do with them? How can they contribute to society? How can they learn to their potential without our society spending a lot of our scarce capital.Will we have enough money to spend large amounts of money to help marginal students pass all of our demanding academic tests? What will happen to the productivity of our society if we don't properly educate the bright students and stimulate them enough to keep us competitive in a fast-moving world? We seem to be drying up the bright immigrants who come here and contribute to our society.A bright student or a bright class will make the teacher look good. A child who is not stimulated or helped at home will not study or try to learn. A child with problems often can't learn. The school will have to do what the home is not doing, but that takes money. And we don't have that kind of money.The courts have ruled that New York City should get an additional $5.6 billion each year for education. The state doesn't have that amount of money. The Campaign For Fiscal Equity's lawsuit was filed 11 years ago. We haven't seen a penny yet. Don't count on it soon. There will be no extra money from federal and state leaders who don't want to raise taxes but let people keep money for a second or third house, three or four vintage cars, a boat, $5,000 watches, $100,000 pieces of jewelry and $1,000 suits or dresses. And while all this is going on, our nation is going deeper and deeper into debt.Good news of the weekThe city recently opened the first combined firehouse and EMS station in Far Rockaway. The facility costs $10 million and contains all that is necessary to house and supply the firefighters. It replaces a firehouse built in 1929.Bad news of the weekThe MTA wants to raise fares .... but the fares were recently raised 25 percent. A little digging by reporters at the Daily News has discovered that 56 former MTA board members have lifetime free MetroCards and E-ZPasses. Spouses and domestic partners also have passes that permit them to ride the city transportation system and the LIRR for free. Wow!

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