FIRST PERSON-I have written extensively about the purposefully segregated, inherently inferior public education system in de factosegregated school districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) where there is little attempt to educate predominantly minority students and teach them critical thinking skills they need to get a post-secondary education or well-paying job. I always assumed that expensive private schools did not suffer from the same self-inflicted malady. But I was wrong.
Over the last few years, I have received many emails and phone calls from teachers at private schools in response to various articles I have written about how teachers at LAUSD are being targeted and removed for not promoting students who are incapable of doing passing work because they have not been taught the skills to do so. The private school teachers talk about a similar phenomenon in which they are under pressure by their administrations to give passing grades to students, irrespective of the quality of work being done. This is due to their administrations’ fear that parents paying $30 to 40 thousand a year in tuition would move their kids to other schools that would give them higher grades, no matter the quality of work being turned in.
Could grade inflation in private schools have anything to do with higher and higher entrance requirements for schools like UCLA, where you now have trouble getting in with a 3.85 grade average? Recently a related issue has come up. If students are accepted to high academic standards schools like UCLA, but have not mastered the prior secondary school grade levels required to do the work -- if their grades in these secondary courses are bought and not earned -- what will be the collateral effect on students and the institutions of higher education they now attend?
In her article “Students Under Pressure,”Amy Novotnay and others talk about a huge spike in the number of students seeking counseling for profound emotional stress, issues that are making them incapable of doing their work. What seems to elude those asking why there has been such a spike in these numbers -- where "more than 30 percent of students who seek services for mental health issues report that they have seriously considered attempting suicide at some point in their lives" -- is any correlation drawn between these facts and "fixing" the public and private education grade assessment system that results in too many college students lacking the prerequisite skills needed to succeed.
There is an exquisite irony to the willingness of private school families to incur the burden of paying high tuition costs for years and years to get their kids an excellent education and become successful adults, while in reality, they are getting exactly the opposite.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.