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Read 'em and weep

2. Establish national core curriculum standards.

3. Test all students in third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth grades against those standards.

4. Establish national teacher qualifications, institute performance standards and rewards.

5. Extend school day and year.

As befits an opinion column, here's my opinion:

1. Educrats love school-district reorganization. No one else does. While it's been going on, in recent decades, school performance has worsened. Leave it alone.

2. We already have such standards: They're the basis for the National Assessment of Educational progress (NAEP) tests. The mischief surfaces when individual states set different and easier standards.

3. We already pay for and use NAEP tests, in fourth, eighth, and 11th grades. The mischief surfaces when states substitute their own and easier tests.

4. No argument on this one.

5. Why? Students already waste a third of their time (some of that in social engineering) in school.

Some urban districts now pay students in cash - incredible but true - to study harder and do better on tests. Maybe they could be rewarded, instead, with a shorter school year if earned with high scores. Certainly, the vast majority of students can easily master the required content, if they choose to, but most don't. If you don't believe that today's subject matter is fairly diluted, then take a look at the graduation tests for schools around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century

For example, consider this one from the Salina, Ks., schools in 1895. Here's a typical question from the eighth grade mathematics section: "School District 33 has a valuation [Grand List] of $33,000. What is the necessary levy [tax rate] to carry on a school for 7 months at $50 per month and have $104 for incidentals?" From the history section: "Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865." Note that the well-known easier ones aren't even offered. You might argue that an eighth grade diploma then equals a high school diploma today. Fine: test your recent high school grad on the above.

There are more questions: If you want to see them all, just holler. Then read 'em and weep.

Former Vermont resident Martin Harris observes the green Mountain State's public education system from his home in Tennessee.

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