What does a high-school diploma say about a student's capabilities? According to the Virginia Department of Education's website, it "signifies that the bearer has met proficiency standards established by the Board of Education in reading, writing, mathematics, science and history."
That's what it said at press time. But as recently as July 6, the page read a little differently. As Paul Goldman, gadfly extraordinaire, noted in an email to news media, the previous language was decidedly loftier.
As cached by Google, it read: "A Virginia high school diploma tells admission officers at colleges, universities, and career and technical schools that the bearer is ready for the rigors of post-secondary education. It also tells potential employers that the graduate possesses the reading, writing, and mathematical skills required for success in the workplace."
Is the change, as Goldman charges, "one of the greatest education admissions in Virginia history since massive resistance?" Goldman says the language change is an acknowledgement that Virginia high-school graduates aren't prepared for college.
Not so, says Charles Pyle, director of communications for the department. The previous wording was pulled from 2003 brochure it sent to students to explain why the state was then raising graduation requirements. "It was never a policy statement," Pyle says.
Goldman, a longtime political adviser and former Richmond mayoral candidate, says the language change is just one more sign of how Virginia schools are failing the state's children. "It's sad. This is a human tragedy," he says. "JFK was right: A miseducated child is a lost child."
Coincidentally, Pyle says the language change was prompted by a phone call between Pyle and a taxpayer who had questions about the wording. His name?