From a story in The Washington Post this week: “Only 11 of more than 60,000 Maryland high school seniors did not graduate last spring solely because they failed the state’s new required exams, state officials said Monday as they claimed success in a program meant to bolster academic rigor. . . . Although the results are encouraging, some are asking how tough the tests could be if only a tiny percentage of the students fail.”

A state board member commented, “Since the number is so small, one could raise the question: Are we setting the standards high enough?”

This story reminds me of an event that occurred nearly a decade ago in a large Georgia high school.

I was visiting that school during a business trip and during the visit was informed that seventeen of their high school seniors had not passed the Georgia state math exams and would be denied graduation.

My mind quickly raced to the fate these seventeen seniors would soon face. Without a high school degree, their opportunity to make a decent living and to provide for their eventual families would be severely limited. So, I made a rash challenge.

I asked the principal, “If we provide the hardware and interactive courseware in a small lab, would these students be allowed to take the exam again?” The principal replied in the affirmative but allowed that we had only six weeks to go before graduation.

A meeting was arranged. Only eleven of the affected seniors showed up (the other six had given up and left school for good). I told these eleven that they had only one requirement and that was that they had to be in this interactive media lab for at least an hour after school each day. But, I told them, that if they would do this, I was confident that they would pass the state exam.

And, so it was arranged. Eleven interactive media systems were delivered to the school along with eleven complete sets of interactive math courseware.

All eleven eventually re-took the state exam and all eleven were successful, allowing them to graduate with their classmates.

This story only illustrates that the Maryland state board critics are complaining about the wrong thing. We should hope that every young person who plays by the attendance rules and meets the academic requirements of each class they take should have a real opportunity to achieve that prized diploma. And, as we all know by now, well-designed interactive media will make that more possible in this age of learning culture evolution.

The content will be no better than that which is covered in a typical “lecture/reading” classroom environment — but, the medium used to convey that content will be superior for many in today’s learning culture.

May Education wise up soon — and, join the new Learning Party.

More on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning