By Jay Mathews
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Dear Extra Credit:
As former students and educators, we at GED Testing Service certainly understand that some academic subjects can be more challenging than others. The GED tests, however, are designed to measure outcomes of a national high school curriculum. All five tests, including the mathematics test, reflect national high school graduation requirements, which are increasingly rigorous.
For math, the number of courses required to obtain a high school diploma has increased nationwide, and Algebra 1, once taken predominantly by college-bound students, is virtually universal as a graduation requirement.
I agree with your statement in your Dec. 4 column ["Betting Against a Big Drop in Graduation Rates"] that "if we change the test so that your friend can pass it, that will reduce the confidence in the GED [credential] among employers." Employers and colleges have a right to expect that GED credential recipients are on par with graduating high school seniors in mathematics, science, social studies and language arts (reading and writing).
Martin D. Kehe
Director of test development,
GED Testing Service
Thanks very much for clearing that up.
Dear Extra Credit:
I am 11 years old and in the sixth grade. One reason I have found home schooling to be an excellent learning experience is that the teaching is consistent. This is because I have the same teacher for all of my eight daily subjects. My mother is my teacher, and she knows all about me, including my strengths and weaknesses.
Secondly, as home-schooled Americans, we are free to exercise our right of freedom of religion. I am free to pray to Jesus out loud in my classroom. I am free to incorporate and discuss any element of my Christianity in all my subjects. Thus, I am free to refer to and read my Bible any time I choose and include it in my studies.
Finally, the time required for me to complete my daily academics is significantly less than for my public school peers. My school is in my home, so no time is wasted in transportating me to and from school. Also, when my school day is done, I am finished. I do not receive additional homework, so I have much more time to spend with my family and for extracurricular activities.
I loved getting a home-schooled student's view. The consistency argument is a good one. But I wonder about the religious argument. In principle, the Constitution allows you to say anything you want in school about your religion. It is teachers who have to be careful not to preach. But the Constitution allows teachers to tell you not to pray aloud when it interrupts a lesson, just as they can tell a student not to hum his favorite tune if it distracts other students.
Dear Extra Credit:
I could never have home-schooled my daughter. She always knew she was smarter than her parents, and was even able to marshal statistical proof with monster SAT scores. Without sufficient intellectual stimulation, she would have gotten into trouble -- invented a death ray, or started a cabal dedicated to world conquest. The only thing to do was to let her go to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Her power usefully channeled, she graduated and went to Stanford.
Dear Extra Credit:
We are fortunate that Northern Virginia has many options for education. In the first year of her home schooling, my daughter took Algebra 2 and chemistry at home, along with AP American History online, a (paid) Spanish class and composition classes from teachers with home-school classes (typical class size: six to 12).
The following year, we joined a co-op, where she took British lit, philosophy and world view, and advanced biology, while doing pre-calculus at home and continuing her Spanish classes. For her senior year, she took most of her classes at Northern Virginia Community College.
She entered college with 28 credits and is a junior double-majoring in chemistry and Spanish. She has made the dean's list every semester.
Because she was home-schooled, she had time for many extracurricular activities, including training a horse, a youth group, and club and high school soccer (our home-school group has varsity and middle-school sports teams), in addition to having a job.
To reengage my son in the learning process, sixth grade at home consisted of lots and lots of reading -- almost 80 books on a variety of subjects, as well as math and a bit of writing.
We also took a number of field trips for hands-on learning. After that year, he also joined the co-op.
This year, in 10th grade, he is taking a teacher-taught pre-calculus/trig class, plus world history, Composition 2 and mythology at the co-op. He is also taking a Spanish 2 correspondence class, and my husband is teaching him and two others physics.
We have been able to incorporate field trips and applied workshops more readily than a typical high school can. In the fall, he played on two soccer teams -- club and high school -- did a youth group, refereed soccer and had an active social life.
Thanks for these wonderful details. I am beginning to understand that home schooling is an inadequate term for what we are talking about -- parents using many resources outside the public schools.
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