Consider alternatives to high school exit exams

Regarding your Aug. 19 article "Exit exams yield a 'graduation gap' ": High school exit exams do little to encourage student graduation and are seldom reliable sources for school accountability. Unless school officials have been trained to use such data to guide curriculum and instruction, they are of little use. Two effective and efficient ways of assessing student achievement would be for students to:

• Prepare exit products such as exit theses, dissertations, demonstrations, exhibits, performances, or portfolios. The final year in high school could be used to prepare these products with the help of teachers. Evaluation of these products could be guided by the use of state-prepared guidelines and rubrics, and scored by selected intra-school committees.

• Provide proof of acceptance into internships, career training, colleges, or universities. High school students tend to be more focused when they are given autonomy in their education.
Patricia A. Stewart

This is a classic case of addressing the symptoms rather than the problems. The symptoms are the number of students failing their high school exit exams and failing to obtain diplomas. The problems are the education system and traditional high school diplomas.

Schools should not water down exit exams just to graduate more students. The purpose of our education system is to prepare students to be productive members of society. It makes good sense to evaluate whether students are ready for gainful employment, advanced education, and the business of everyday life.
Steve Burleson
Camden, Maine

At fault for debt: Not just the consumer

In reference to your Aug. 16 article "King Kong debt meets middle-class life": Personal responsibility and self-restraint should always be the first step in solving this problem. Having said that, low interest-rate credit cards - which too often end up at a 25 percent rate - are a financial slippery slope to quicksand. Poor choices, loss of a job, or a sudden income drop make for a quick slide into ruined credit and possible bankruptcy. I have been there, and I believe that banks and financial institutions must share some responsibility. Just look at the five or six credit card invitations we get every week in the mail.
David Sproat
Allison Park, Pa.

Marshall Plan: unneeded in Venezuela

The proposal in Andrew Reding's Aug. 23 Opinion piece "US should form Marshall Plan for Latin America," is suspect. The Venezuelans have enough oil reserves to finance needed corrective measures on their own. A plan to have US taxpayers back any sort of unneeded intervention smells like an opportunity for more political mischief and profit-skimming by wealthy oil interests.
J. Staley
Puyallup, Wash.

The idea that a Marshall Plan for Latin America could resolve the economic gap between the rich and the poor in Latin American countries lacks good sense and a measure of normal prudence and foresight.

The corruption that is so prevalent within the ruling classes in Latin America would not allow these funds to benefit those for which such a plan is intended; the rich will get richer, and the ultimate beneficiaries would be the international financial corporations based in Miami, Switzerland, or the Cayman Islands. What we need is a change in the US foreign policy that supports corrupt Latin American governments to the benefit of multinational corporations.
Ricardo Valdes
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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