Measuring Up

     Los Angeles Times headline last week: LAUSD Weighs Lower Bar for Grads
     First off, for those of you who don’t know, LAUSD does not stand for Limbo Athletes Using Supple Discipline. If it did, lowering the bar would be a pretty big deal.
     (Tangential thought: I wonder how many L.A. Times readers saw that on the front page and wondered what those initials meant? Did limbo spring to mind just as it did for me?)
     But, no, it doesn’t stand for that. LAUSD is the Los Angeles Unified School District and it seems the school district wants to lower its standards so that more kids can graduate from high school.
     Apparently, the district recently raised standards and then realized that a whole lot of students weren’t up to them.
     Oops.
     This is the sort of thing that puts testing and grading in perspective – a pointless perspective.
     Take a borderline kid (please). He’s a high school dropout if the bar is up. He’s a high school grad if the bar is down.
     Either way, he’s exactly the same kid. How does the bar help either the kid or his potential employers?
     Perspective makes all the difference. Consider the poor kid who got her picture in the Times along with the news story. She’s a junior who gets mostly As and Bs and “favors higher requirements for graduation.”
     Oddly, the story didn’t quote any juniors getting Ds and Fs who don’t favor them.
     The same reaction applies to testing and grades.
     Have you ever heard someone who does really well on standardized tests complain about standardized tests?
     I used to do really well on standardized tests and I never complained about them.
     What I did complain about were grades. This might have had something to do with my being lazy and disorganized, but I doubt it. Grading is unfair and arbitrary.
     See what I mean?
     So what should schools be doing?
     Obviously, I’m the expert on this and my answer is that the National Basketball Association knows what it’s doing. Teach kids to play the game and let them go pro.
     Teach them the skills they’ll need to do some kind of job and let them practice, practice, practice.
     If a high school can have a basketball team and a school play, why can’t it have a brokerage and an auto repair shop?
     You do the job well and then the pros can recruit you.
     Schools should teach to jobs, not tests. No one is going to make a living taking tests (unless they’re on Jeopardy).
     By the way, right now I’m imagining signing up for counseling with a fifth grade class of apprentice psychologists. Their hourly rates ought to be reasonable.
     This is a win-win for the economy.
     
     Creative Writing: Who says tax litigation can’t be fun?
     Maybe most of you, but you’re wrong. Believe it or not, you’ll enjoy reading (or at least skimming) a ruling from the U. S. Tax Court called Superior Trading v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
     If you spend your time immersed in arguments over accounting, you probably need a creative outlet. Here’s part of one sentence from the ruling: “After all the linen is washed, these investors constitute the fonts whither the promised tax savings from chimerical losses would have drained …”
     This is from a section of the opinion called “View from the Bleachers” which is a subsection of “Instant Replay.”
     Favorite subsection title (from another section): “Life Is Life and Fun Is Fun, But It’s All So Quiet When the Goldfish Die.”
     I can’t wait for the HBO mini-series based on this.

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