Maryland's No. 1 ranking in education doesn't mean much [Letter]

If Maryland is No. 1 in education, it's obvious to me that the assessment criteria used to determine that ranking must not be very meaningful ("Md. is still No. 1," Jan. 15).

I am an adjunct faculty member at a local community college, and every semester I work with 20 to 40 students who are products of Maryland's "highly ranked" education system. Most of these students have graduated from high school without ever having achieved a basic proficiency in reading and math.

Lest anyone think I am overstating the problem, I should point out that for the spring 2014 semester, just one Maryland community college has scheduled 94 remedial English classes and 218 remedial math classes.

Please note that this semester's schedule is not an anomaly. Students are placed in remedial classes based on their scores on placement tests. These placement tests are written at an elementary or middle school level. With each class holding 20 students, this indicates that almost 2,000 students could not place into English 101 and almost 4,400 students could not place into Math 101. Even more alarming is the fact that many students have to take remedial classes more than one time.

How did these students graduate from high school if they could not pass a basic assessment test? In fact, how did these students even get to high school?

I discuss the state of education with my students every semester, and every semester students tell me that that as long as they went to class and were not disruptive, they were passed to the next grade. While having a high pass rate may make the principal and the school district look good, it does nothing to prepare students for real life.

For Maryland to truly be rated No. 1, school officials must establish meaningful measurements and stop social promotions. Students who cannot do grade-level work must be retained until they demonstrate proficiency.

Passing a student who is not proficient may preserve the student's self-esteem in the short term, but that same self-esteem will suffer when the student enters the work world and cannot get or keep a job because he or she is not prepared.

Lisa A. Mack, Baltimore

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