New York Times education reporter Maeroff has one timely point: schoolkids shouldn't be penalized--now, through competency testing--for the schools' failings. But his recital of those failings is simply a rehash of old complaints: public schools have been given too much responsibility and too little money; colleges change course without consulting high schools (as on foreign languages); school systems can't jettison poor teachers because of iron-clad tenure laws. And, when Maeroff gets to competency testing proper, he offers neither a thoroughgoing indictment nor a sturdy, convincing alternative. First, he decries the low standards on competency tests (with cause: Finding how many pieces of candy Fred will have if he divides four candy bars in half does seem less than a survival skill); then, he deplores the use of the tests to withhold diplomas--without which, as he notes, young people can't get jobs. But his own corrective suggestions--start remediation early, return to awarding different kinds of diplomas (vocational, academic, etc.)--are hardly likely to impress those demanding results from the schools: the forces, that is, behind the competency-testing trend. The success stories he cites, moreover, are far too specialized to serve as a model (e.g., collaboration between MIT and a Boston technical high school; a million-dollar gift from a newspaper publisher to one Mississippi county system for paraprofessional help). There is much for adults to be concerned about, as Maeroff contends; but what they can do is far better demonstrated in Robert Benjamin's Making Schools Work (p. 397). As for competency testing, it won't be discredited by once again citing the shortcomings of the system.