"Write a Sketch of the Life of Longfellow"

Roger Ebert recently posted a link to a .pdf of the eighth grade graduation test that was administered in 1931 to a portion of West Virginia’s eligible student population.  Go there right now and look at it.  Read every page.  Could you pass it?  Even if we discount all of the West Virginia material (change it to “New York”, “Mombasa”, or wherever it is that you live), do you think that you would be able to pass this exam?  

I’d like to think I’d squeak it out, but it wouldn’t be pretty.  It certainly would be far from my typical score.  I don’t think many of my students would do particularly well, and they are among the brightest minds that occupy the building I work in.  

None of that is really the central point.  The thing to keep in mind is that the typical American eighth grader of 1931 spent almost two weeks less in school than the modern student that I teach (my school year is 184 days long).  

More time in school, and less of an ability to demonstrate learning.  

Something to keep in mind as we move through the latest phase of politicians calling for lengthening the school year