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Read 'em and weep

An expression as old as the game itself is what you learn about the above title in a web search. While searching the 'Net you might also find Will Rogers' 1923 comment: "All I know is what I read in the papers" (quoted in the New York Times back in the days when the Grey Lady's motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print", was accurate).

In that context, two recent news articles appearing almost simultaneously drew my attention.

One was recently released report on contemporary public education by the advocacy group Strong American Schools entitled, "Diploma to Nowhere," which I read in a monthly called School Reform News.

This subject was also covered by the wire services in their releases to major newspapers across the nation. The other was a lengthy op-ed by former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner (recently the head of anadvocacy group called "The Teaching Commission") in the Wall Street Journal in which he sets forth his five measures for improving publication.

The two news items fit together because the first describes how remedial college education - making up for what the K-12 effort doesn't accomplish - now applies to a full third of all college freshmen. The second item offers specific remedies for that failure to produce adequate results.

Read both pieces and weep, you might agree, is an understandable taxpayer reaction: after all, it's been 25 years since the first of such study-and-recommend reports (A Nation at Risk, 1983) was published and the public-education-productivity situation has worsened rather than improved. In 1983, for example, a third of all college students didn't need remedial high school-level courses. I won't even mention the changes in property tax levels for school funding here.

Gerstner's five recommendations:

1. Reduce school districts to 70: 50 states and 20 largest cities.

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