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My younger son is in an AP Environmental Science class at the local public school. Today the teacher said for the second time this year that humans are the only animals with opposable thumbs—which will be a big surpriseto the orangutangs, gorillas, and many other ape cousins of ours.

Now, ignorant teachers are in no way unique to public school. I had an ignorant science teacher at an expensive private school. But I wasn’t surprised, because Back-to-School night already gave me major bad vibes…

…After the presentation I asked that, since this was a veteran teacher, how had her classes done on the AP in the past. She said she had a 40 percent pass rate.

Another parent followed up: "That’s 40 percent with 4s and 5s?"

"No, 40 percent with 3s, 4s, and 5s."

A three on the AP is a marginal pass. Sixty percent are getting 1 and 2, that is, they are, regardless of their high school grade, failing the class insofar as they wanted to get the equivalent of a college course. The other parent and I just looked at each other in shock.

Statistics like that would not be accepted at a private school, not over the long run.

There have been several diaries defending public schools against charter schools (as it happens, that may be true: I wish corporations would just pay their damn taxes instead of insisting on time-wasting spectaculars where their charitable endeavors usurp the common good). There were several diaries condemning the LA Times Value-Addedcalculations, many of them condemning pretty much all forms of standardized testing.

What I'm still waiting for are teachers to explain why they are doing a good job, and how we, the parents and taxpayers, can be reassured they are doing a good job. I don't want excuses that my son's classroom is full of kids in poverty, non-white kids, and kids whose parents don't speak English, because I don't anticipate those situations changing in my lifetime. Nor am I interested in self-referential measures about teaching credentials and mediocre Masters Degrees.

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Originally posted to Andrew Lazarus on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 12:58 PM PDT.

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