QUESTION OF THE DAY: "And what the heck is "pre-K-20" education? Does Seattle assume that its public school system is so ineffective that kids will need to stay in it until they're almost old enough to legally drink?" That's Number 2 Pencil, looking at some expense-preference behavior by the Seattle school board that will only leave the children in their charge further behind. The answer to her question, depressingly, is yes. Here is the goal: "An integrated educational continuum ensures strength at all levels: universal access to quality pre-schools, mastery of reading skills by third grade and algebra by eighth, assurance that all educators are competent and current in their fields." That's taken from the Illinois P-20 initiative. (The "P" is equivalent to "pre-K," it means day care with structured lessons.) To repeat, "Forgive me the impertinence, but apart from the pre-school component, the effectiveness of which is not yet settled, isn't this what the common schools used to do?"

But the Seattle school board apparently isn't interested in finding out how well the experiments are working. Ms Swygert has it about right: "Ahh hah hah hah! What sort of Magical Thinking Class does a school board member have to take in order to believe that removing a test which shows how schools are failing will actually affect whether the schools are failing? Hey, this means if I throw my scale out the window, I can remove the 'public perception' that I've gained 20 pounds in the last two years. Yeah, that's the ticket!" Unfortunately, there is a market test. Cold Spring Shop has noted, and will continue to note, that there is a market test for academic achievement. Although school boards might be able to hide their failures by abolishing troubling assessment tests, ultimately the graduates of schools of all levels have to make their way in the world as producers and traders, and that world has a way of finding out who can do the work and who can not. And some school districts -- and some universities -- will find out the hard way that their graduates can not.

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