Outstanding article - breaks it down perfectly. I am a SPED teacher. I watch students suffering every day - students with disabilities who are held to the same standard as students in AP classes, and everyone in between. I watch them struggle, give up, fail... then miraculously, some how, they pass the state mandated test! How is this possible? I'd bet the ranch that students are being passed to show schools are progressing just enough to earn more free money. A few of the same students fail the class, or pass because their grades are inflated (grade inflation is another subject entirely). In the end, what has the system done for the student? Nothing. Johnny graduates with a useless, meaningless piece of paper that qualifies him for a nice photo op at commencement. The morning after, he has no skills, a 14 on the ACT, and few to no options for continuing ed. TN Voc-Rehab is a joke. No disabled student of mine over the past 10 has been approved for Voc-Rehab - if they can walk and talk, they are considered too high functioning.
The need for Vocational Education in our schools is dire - not every student is college bound, and not every student needs four years of math, unless systems accept consumer math, math foundations, etc. This, also, is a subject that stands alone and far too multifaceted to address here.
When I saw my students' Algebra I EOC scores, I almost fainted. I am, for lack of a better word, intimate with their skills, or lack thereof. There is no WAY they could have passed that test. Once I regained consciousness - it took a few weeks - I arose reenergized and with an epiphany: I have decided to genuinely teach this year as if a test did not exist. It doesn't matter - students are going to pass anyway. What a scam.