For the April 13, 1998, issue of Newsweek magazine, respected Washington Post columnist George F. Will wrote an article titled "Disorder in the Schools," which concluded that "too many college students have neither the aptitudes nor the attitudes needed in college."
Will also concluded that "better high schools would enable colleges to be more selective and demanding, which in turn would require high schools to become yet better."
Will observed: "Necessity can be the mother of improvement, so if colleges got out of the remediation business, would high schools be jolted to become more demanding? That is not clear. What is clear is that as colleges become more thirsty for students, that thirst drives them to become less selective among applicants and less demanding of those admitted."
As an example, he used the California state system, in which almost half of the college freshmen at that time needed remedial work in math, English or both.
The points raised by Will have relevance now, even as testing requirements in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have attempted to put more pressure on schools to demand higher student achievement, as well as better overall performance by schools themselves.
That said, the Claysburg-Kimmel School District merits positive notice for its evolving movement to beef up the district's educational program.
As reported in an article in the Jan. 16 Mirror, a Citizens Advisory Committee has been formed to try to identify ways to reverse Claysburg's trend toward low test scores and poor state rankings.
According to the article, the district's elementary rates at 62.6 points against the neighboring Northern Bedford School District's 83.8 in a state measurement system. On the high school level, Claysburg scores 67.9 against Northern Bedford's 82.4.
Many parents and others at a Claysburg-Kimmel School Board meeting on Jan. 15 exhibited concerns about unprepared graduates and poor test scores amid a higher-than-average proportion of high school students being accorded high honors.
Anthony Knisely, a 2013 graduate, said, "Going into college, I felt like I wasn't prepared enough in the mathematics department ... Maybe these students need to be challenged more."
But there was a troubling response from district Superintendent Royce Boyd who, despite the meeting discussion, seemed puzzled regarding what the advisory group intends to accomplish. Rather than seeming to exhibit skepticism, Boyd should have expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with district residents amid their newfound concerns about the local schools.
A public thrust on behalf of better education like Claysburg's is not a common occurrence in school districts, neither in Pennsylvania nor in other states. Claysburg-Kimmel parents, students, teachers and others who are stepping forward in support of the new effort deserve praise.
Colleges should not have to waste time teaching what should have been learned on the secondary-school level - accomplishment that would be reflected in test scores and the district's statewide ranking.
Students in Claysburg and everywhere else should be made to exert themselves while in high school so they enter college prepared for that level of learning.
Claysburg's new mission gives cause for the result that the Will article sought to encourage.