Pennsylvania's public schools have been waiting for three years to find out whether the state will move ahead with new education standards designed to make students more globally competitive.
Without official direction, many schools went ahead and began teaching the Pennsylvania Core Standards, which go deeper in fewer topics than prior guidelines and emphasize nonfiction more than novels.
Now, it seems, the state is giving the green light not only to the standards but also to related exams that students will have to pass to graduate from high school. But it is not providing additional funding to implement the mandates, and educators in Philadelphia and other cash-strapped districts say their students are being set up for failure.
"There isn't enough money in Philadelphia to provide for basic instruction," said Rosalind Jones-Johnson, education director of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, predicting that the new exams will lead to an increased high school dropout rate and, consequently, increased poverty. "To mandate this and not provide the funding, the human resources, and the intervention is unconscionable."