Cut-score cacophony

Yet another example of a state backing away from high standards. A committee, composed largely of Georgia teachers, included challenging new questions in the state's sixth- and seventh-grade social studies exams. Then, Georgia's Board of Education raised by nine points the score needed to pass those tests. Then, 70 to 80 percent of Georgia's kids failed them. The state knew in 2007, after scoring pilot questions, that tens of thousands of pupils would likely bomb the exams, but it nonetheless allowed testing to go forward, apparently because officials wanted to uphold rigid academic standards. (Imagine that.) Now comes the backlash. "This is atrocious and unforgivable," said seventh-grade educator Jason Adams. "This is the kind of thing where a heads-up to teachers would have been nice." (Heads-up, Mr. Adams! Your students aren't learning much about social studies.) State superintendent Kathy Cox heard the complaints, bowed to pressure, and dumped the social studies results, blaming them, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on "a vague curriculum and imprecise direction for teachers." Deafening now is the din from state and district officials who argue about what, exactly, could have caused such all-around low scores. An obvious point is rarely, if ever, mentioned: Perhaps students in Georgia simply don't know much history? Perhaps the problem lies not in the standards or the tests, but in the classrooms?

"State foresaw test problems," by Heather Vogell, Laura Diamond, and Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2008