Rod Driver

Appearance on WSBE-TV (Channel 36), September 11, 1998

Set standards and maintain them


Everything depends on education as far as the future of this country goes. And we all know what happens when any competition is held between American students and students from other countries. We come out at or near the bottom. And this shouldn't be acceptable anymore.

What's happened over the years -- and I've seen it because I've taught for 29 years at URI and before that elsewhere -- what's happened is that standards and expectations have gone down. I've got a book here, a college algebra book. It's 40 years old. It can't be used anymore - not because it's obsolete, not because college algebra has changed, but because that book is too hard. Today we have to use easier books, we have to give easier tests and we expect less from our students.

Now the problem is not just money. Sure it would be nice, I suppose, if at a certain age students had access, ready access, to computers and that would cost money. But I don't think that's the most important thing.

I think the most important thing is to set some standards and maintain them. And simply say, "You didn't pass. You didn't pass this course unless you've met these requirements, or you don't move up to the next grade unless you've met certain requirements."

Now the General Assembly, during the time I was there, did something which I think is rather bizarre. We reduced standards! We reduced standards for the teaching profession itself!

You've seen the stories I'm sure -- they've been in news so much in the past few months -- about Massachusetts and the problem it had with candidates for teacher certification being unable to pass the certification test. And they had a big controversy. They thought we'll lower the standards so people can pass? Well, that didn't go over very well. So they raised the standards and people failed in large numbers.

Well, in Rhode Island since 1991 it's been a law that failing the teacher's qualification test should not bar you from teacher certification. It took 3 years to get this bill through. ... And at every stage I opposed it. I thought this was crazy. This was the wrong direction to move -- to tell people it doesn't matter, if they can't pass the test they can still become teachers, or become whatever you want.