I can recall my own primary and secondary education of 60-50 years ago, when teachers still seemed to be interested in educating children, rather than indoctrinating them. Those who could - and would - do the work, were "rewarded"... by good grades, and promotion to the next highest grade at the end of the school year. Those who failed to do the work successfully, whether by intellectual insufficiency or personal choice (laziness), got poor grades and were not promoted, and were "rewarded" with another year in the same classroom, with the same teacher, doing (or not doing) the same work. Students are not all equally capable, nor should they be treated as such if our system of education is to turn out a satisfactory end-product. And, yes, I did refer to the education process in terms similar to that of a successful production line, since it should be essentially that.
The student should move from grades K-12 in an assembly line fashion, proceeding from one point to another after passing a "quality control" check (final exams). If the student is incapable of passing the QC, they should be returned/retained at that level until they do succeed. However, unlike a true assembly line, we should not discard our "product" if it fails QC. Recycling is the order of the day - remedial education and "Summer School" are where we should attempt to assist the student in making the adjustments.
Great Britain has an interesting, and perhaps superior, way of dealing with the educational process. Education is compulsory for all children from their fifth birthday to the last Friday in June of the school year in which they turn 16. This will be raised, in 2013, to the year in which they turn 17 and, in 2015, to their 18th birthday. Existing tests at the end of Key Stage 3 were abandoned after the 2008 tests, where severe problems emerged concerning the marking procedures. Now at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 3, progress is examined via individual teacher assessment against the National Curriculum Attainment Targets for all subjects. Test results for schools are published, and are an important measure of their performance. Insufficient performance at the Secondary Educational level, usually results in students being enrolled in what we in the USA call VoTech (Vocational/Technical) Education classes, insuring that students who fail academically are trained (to whatever extent they are capable of absorbing such training) in a usable craft/skill that will allow them to become productive, self-sufficient members of society, rather than "going on the Dole" (the UK's version of "welfare").
Twenty-five percent of Americans that start high school do not graduate. Thirty percent of high school graduates do not go on to college right after graduation, and forty-three percent of students who start college will not graduate in 6 years. How does this compare with other countries? In 2010, the U.S. high school graduation rate was lower than the rates of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Finland and Denmark.
What about college? The U.S. once led the world in college graduates. As an example of this, Americans age 55-to-64 still lead their peers in other nations in the portion with college degrees (41 percent). But this number has flat-lined for Americans. In 2010, the same percentage of Americans age 25-to-34 and age 55-to-64 were college graduates.
Meanwhile, other nations have caught up, and some have pulled ahead. Among this younger age group, 25- to 34-year-olds, all of the following nations now have a larger percent of college graduates than the U.S.: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The faux-reasonings for this "dumbing down" are manifold, and the results are obviously disastrous! Excuses such as, "Failure is not good for the child's psyche!" and "No child should be left behind". Well, guess what? You have to earn your own way in the real-world workplace - there are no "free rides" when an employer is paying you wages for your work. If you are unsuccessful at meeting your employer's expectations, you will be fired. Unemployment is not good for the economy, starvation is not good for one's health, and socialism kills individual motivation and work-ethic. Socialism isn't good for ANYBODY!
(The details of the above are covered in a book by Charlotte Iserbyte, who served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education during the first term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and staff employee of the US State Department (South Africa, Belgium, and South Korea). The book is available as a free, downloadable eBook from: