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Letters: Taking Exception

School districts take their job seriously

The editorial "Graduation requirements: Waste paper" (Inquirer, May 7) is filled with inaccuracies and is an affront to public education in Pennsylvania.

Your assertions that school districts are handing out "empty diplomas," that current graduation testing is a "travesty," that local graduation assessments are simply "dumbed down" versions of the state test, and that students get diplomas just for "showing up" are insults to every hardworking teacher, school board member, and administrator working in a Pennsylvania public high school. Worse, they are not factually accurate.

A recent Pennsylvania School Boards Association survey shows that districts invest substantial amounts of time, effort and resources into developing local assessments, aligning them to the state's academic standards as the law requires. Many districts in your readership area fit that bill. The Avon Grove School District in Chester County, Centennial and Central Bucks in Bucks County, and the School District of Philadelphia are but four that have comprehensive local graduation testing and alignment procedures in place.

These districts, along with scores of others, take their responsibility in this area seriously. To dismiss their efforts simply gives credence to the careless rhetoric that proponents of this proposal are using to try desperately to win its enactment. The members of the General Assembly who have raised concerns with this proposal should be commended, not condemned, for questioning a plan that is so badly misdirected.

Let's be clear: There is no disagreement about the need for students to be proficient in critical subject areas and to be prepared to become contributing citizens when they graduate high school. This is a debate about whether those attributes can be demonstrated through paper-and-pencil testing alone. The local assessments so roundly panned in your editorial are designed to permit students to demonstrate their readiness for graduation through a variety of legitimate means, and not simply standardized tests.

We should focus on the end result and not be mesmerized by one means of measuring it.

Thomas J. Gentzel

Executive director

Pennsylvania School Boards Association