Well, they've done it again. Despite disappointing performances on state assessment tests, swarms of Kennett High students seem to have had no trouble getting their names on that school's honor roll.
The honor roll published in this paper on Feb. 7 listed a total of 298 students awarded honors or high honors, from a student body that was down to 686 at last count. That exceeds 43 percent of the entire school taking "honors," according to grades issued by teachers who might feel interested in exaggerating academic performance as a reflection on their own competence. By the standards of yesteryear, so high a proportion of honor students might seem suspicious, but it's the norm today.
This heavy proportion of honor students conflicts directly with the latest results of state testing. Among all Conway students from kindergarten through high school, the state assessments in the spring of 2022 detected that an average of only 32 percent met state expectations for reading. In high school, only juniors are assessed annually, and perhaps remedial attention accounts for 63 percent of last year's juniors demonstrating adequate literacy, but only 31 percent of them made the grade in math, and 28 percent in science. If more than two-thirds of the current senior class missed the mark in math and science last spring, and less than two-thirds could read satisfactorily, does it seem credible that over 43 percent of Kennett High made the honor roll?
In an early draft of this column, a couple of weeks ago, I wondered ironically why the school board's pretentious fondness for collegiate terminology had not led to the issuance of diplomas with honorific Latin distinctions. Then the board, in all seriousness, actually adopted the ornamentation I had imagined only in sarcasm. In a blatant example of window-dressing over substance, nearly half of graduating seniors will now receive diplomas marked "cum laude," "magna cum laude," or "summa cum laude," for increasing levels of distinction. The majority, however, will graduate "sine laude" — Latin slang for "by the skin of their teeth."
With Conway students' assessment performances declining year after year, administrators stopped boasting about our scores and began dismissing them as mere "snapshots in time." Now, they highlight other "data points" of progress. Accordingly, almost half of SAU 9's latest self-produced "Report Card" is devoted to "Student Achievement" statistics meant to perfume the poor test results — such as the number of students who earned college credit, took part in independent study or work-study, or participated in sports.
They also track the number of graduates who have pursued further education, as well as those who came back for a second year. That "persistence" ratio is based on the number who originally matriculated, rather than on the number in each graduating class, and that makes it sound a lot better. The persistence ratio for the Kennett Class of 2017, for example, is given as 81 percent, meaning 81 percent of those who went to college at all. Only 43 percent of those who graduated from Kennett in 2017 actually returned to college in the fall of 2018.
Another "data point" lists the educational destination of Kennett graduates. Given enough family support and student ambition, any cohort of 162 seniors is going to have some stars, so Dartmouth and Bowdoin each accepted members of Kennett's class of 2022. So did 45 other named schools, but Paul Mitchell's School of Cosmetology was somehow overlooked. Did the girl bound there not follow through, or wasn't her choice sufficiently impressive?
Similar propaganda, carefully timed for budget season, appears daily in this newspaper — as in the recent announcements of local alumni named to college honor rolls. Much of this self-congratulation is obviously designed to imply that the continuing education of graduates is just another sign of Kennett's scholastic excellence. In fact, the proportions of college attendance mainly reflect the education racket's self-perpetuating exploitation of occupational certification requirements, many of which are imposed by academia itself.
Post-secondary education is almost criminally overpriced and overrated, although promoted endlessly. Yet college isn't even really necessary to obtain an education, at least for those who leave school able to read well and cipher — but that's precisely where Conway schools are failing us.
And this is what "Student-Centered Leaning", with a huge dose of "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity" looks like.
It's a race to the bottom and judging by the test scores, Kennet H.S. is winning. But hey, everyone will have their self-esteem intact [except for our best and brightest].
So, instead of weighed grades we will have inflated grades.
Good plan. We never liked those terrible "grade chasers" anyway.
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