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Most controversies over education are centered around the question of how strictly standards should be upheld. The concern over whether or not flunking students is appropriate or even in the best interest of the student is a widely discussed topic. The argument often begins with students just starting school where the question of standardized testing for kindergartners arises. The majority of people are actually against such testing because they feel that a child who is labeled as a failure at such an early age may be permanently damaged (Bowen 86). The worry over the failure issue is further traced to educators who feel children just entering school are not fully prepared. Teachers are faced with kindergarten students who do not know their addresses, colors, and sometimes even first and last names (An 'F' 59).

Another reason why the assignment of failing grades has decreased is the influence of the self-esteem movement, which promotes the assumption that children who do not have a positive self-image cannot learn or develop properly. Although this theory is widely accepted, it has been discredited by several studies. Recent research shows that, although American students felt more confident about themselves and their work, they were outperformed by several Asian countries on tests of elementary skills. American schools and teachers tend to worry more about the student's self-esteem than the actual academic performance (Leo, "Damn" 21). Mary Sherry, a teacher of adult literacy programs, does not believe such theories. Her view is that students become motivated by the threat of failure, and that not failing a student not only shows lack of confidence on the teacher's behalf, but also hurts the society as a whole. Employees are becoming highly disappointed with so-called "graduate" students (8).

In a letter to columnist Ann Landers, a college professor wrote about his views of the education system. He feels that universities have turned into businesses where teachers are just looking for money and students are just looking for a piece of paper with a title on it. He says that the students of today think they are automatically entitled to a degree because they pay tuition (Depressed Old Prof. 3-B). Adding to the profit motive for schools is the government which, for the past twenty-five years, has been handing out more grants and loans than it can cover. Furthermore, the government does not presently have a standard testing procedure to help determine which students deserve such rewards. Its givings are based strictly on financial need (Mulcahy 12).

The government is not the only organization avoiding standardized testing; many colleges around the nation, including several elite liberal-arts colleges, have stopped requiring standard test scores for admission. These universities use other information, such as class rank and GPA, to determine eligibility (Goldstein 52-53). There is, however, much opposition to the idea of no tests. Diane Ravitch feels that testing can protect society and encourage students to try harder. She feels that tests are effective as long as students are properly prepared for them in their everyday learning (54).

In more recent headlines, the issue of education and testing has risen again. Both major presidential candidates have voiced strong support of statewide testing in hopes of raising academic standards. This is in response to voter's strong backing of high-stake testing in the polls. The majority of people included in a recent survey feel that students should have to pass statewide tests to progress to the following grade and even to graduate. For programs started in Texas by Governor George Bush, schools are rewarded and punished according to the student performance. Some critics express concern that pressure on students and teachers is too great and teachers may tend to shape their lessons for the test, therefore cheating students out of a well-rounded education. Furthermore, some research shows that students cramming information combined with high pressure can lead to short-term climbs in test scores (Morse et al 50-52). Another concern is the possibility of lowered standards in individual states resulting in an abundance of high grades and hardly any failures. Studies show that the average amount of students with an A average has gone up nearly twenty percent in twenty-five years (Pedersen 64).

A completely different area of schooling has also come into the picture, raising more questions about testing. More than a million children are being homeschooled, and that number is growing at a tremendous rate of approximately fifteen percent per year. These students do not have the benefits of class ranking and teacher evaluations to help their acceptance into competitive colleges. They have, however, come to score an average of almost sixty points higher on the SAT than the regular high school students (Winters 55). Some parents even try avoiding academic measurements early on by seeking out special schools or homeschooling (Wilkes 8).

A growing concern to many on-lookers is a new kind of English class that is becoming more popular each semester. Leo tells us in "The Answer Is 45 Cents" that according to a Michigan report,

The "process" school of composition dominates freshman writing classes at state



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