The Nation: Florida Flunks

A scandal for schools

Last October Florida's 120,000 high school juniors sat down to take a new exam: a Functional Literacy Test ordered by the state legislature to determine whether, as critics had charged, state schools had been graduating as many as 10,000 virtually illiterate seniors each year. The three-hour exam, divided into math and verbal sections, focused on students' ability to cope with such simple tasks as filling out job applications and reading labels on canned goods. The exam, said the state testing director, Thomas Fisher, was "very, very basic" —seventh-or eighth-grade level.

Yet when the results began to filter out last...

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