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Kids suffer as adults fail on education

The Buffalo Public Schools senior with good grades and college aspirations didn’t know he was being shortchanged despite a glowing report card.

But as it turns out, he was.

Proof came in the SATs last spring, where his dismal scores came as a shock in light of school grades in the high 80s and 90s.

His plight – outlined here four months ago – prompted him to seek after-school tutoring at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on the East Side in preparation for another try at the SATs last month. With the help of the mission’s volunteer tutors, he went from the 21st percentile in reading to the 35th, from the 10th percentile in math to the 22nd, and from the 31st in writing to the 35th.

Not stellar, but a lot better.

“I wasn’t happy, but I know that I improved,” the 17-year-old Emerson School of Hospitality senior said this week as he arrived at St. Luke’s for more after-school assistance. You can’t help but wonder how much better he could have done if he had received that kind of help throughout his BPS career. Still, he now has at least a fighting chance as he fills out college applications.

But what about the other thousands like him who don’t have a St. Luke’s? His story comes to mind after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, President Obama and Congress caved in to the anti-reform hysteria fomented by teacher unions and threw students under the school bus last week.

The Every Student Succeeds Act – overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by Obama – erases the dreaded Common Core standards as a mandate meant to force every state to improve. Instead, states can once again race to the bottom with standards so low that they can’t help but meet them and make themselves look good.

The new law also ends the mandated linkage between student test scores and teacher evaluations, returning us to Lake Wobegon schools in which every teacher is exemplary no matter how many students graduate unprepared.

New York’s retreat parallels Washington’s. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia asked the Board of Regents to postpone linking teacher evaluations to student test scores for at least four years, and the board happily complied. That reversal comes after Cuomo’s tough talk about the old evaluations being “baloney” because nearly every teacher rated well.

And Cuomo’s own task force wants to follow the crowd in moving away from Common Core, after the whining of politically potent teacher unions that don’t want their members held accountable and from parents complaining that Common Core was just too tough for little Johnny or Janey.

All in all, it’s a giant step back toward the same system that wasn’t working in the first place; the same system that left the Emerson student, and many like him, needing extra help.

Maybe the answer is for students to form their own union, raise unseemly amounts of money and bribe politicians in the form of campaign contributions. Until then, they’ll continue to be collateral damage in the debate over schools.

Of course, most students are probably happy that the state and the feds are dumbing down education again. In their eyes, easier is better.

But then, they’re just kids. That’s why we make them rely on adults who are supposed to know better.