In his May 3 op-ed, "A Test Everyone Will Fail," Gerald W. Bracey questioned the accuracy of international comparisons of educational achievement and accused advocates of school reform of using scare tactics. Unfortunately, Mr. Bracey's questions are the wrong ones to be asking.
We can quibble over the exact percentages of American students who are doing extremely well in reading and math compared with their peers in other countries, but is that the issue?
The questions that urgently require answers are: What do we do about the one-third of students who enter ninth grade each fall but drop out before graduating four years later? About another third who graduate without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college or today's workplace? About the 50 percent of African American and Latino students who don't graduate at all? About the 70 percent of eighth-graders who can't read at grade level? About the billions of dollars spent annually by colleges and businesses on remediation for things kids should have learned in high school?
These are not scare tactics; they are facts. And as long as almost 7,000 students drop out every school day, this nation must not be diverted from its demand for high standards and rigorous coursework.
Whether America's top students are doing better or worse than their international counterparts is a debate that should be saved for a day when all students are graduating with at least the basic skills and knowledge they need to be successful in life.
Alliance for Excellent Education
It is encouraging that the Education Department has finally acknowledged a problem teachers have been aware of for decades: Dropout rates consistently have been miscalculated by many state education agencies ["New Figures Show High Dropout Rate," news story, May 10].
What is particularly troubling is that this practice has masked the disproportionately high rate at which poor, minority and special ed students quit school. For these students, dropping out is a pathway to a host of negative adult outcomes, including unemployment, homelessness and incarceration. The economic and social costs to American taxpayers are enormous.