Marisa was an extremely talented young teenager with an outgoing personality and uncommon singing ability. She could have been written off as not having gifts of any kind because of her weakness in mathematics. However, one could not help but like her; her smile was contagious, and everyone felt better in her presence. Talk about charm. She had always struggled with math and was terrified of the New York math regents competency test that had just been put in place as a graduation requirement. Before 1994, no competency tests were required to graduate with a local diploma. In order to graduate, she had to pass this test, the first of what would come to be called “high-stakes tests.” The dropout rate in New York City and in cities across the nation is very high. Even before so-called higher standards the cities had failed to graduate about fifty percent of their students.
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