When failing no one is failing everyone

What's the point of having standards if they're so low that everybody meets them? That’s the Q in Maryland this week following the announcement that only 11 of 62,000 students were denied graduation as a result of failing the state graduation exam (despite its many alternatives, loopholes, and escape clauses). The test, which was the source of some brouhaha when enacted and was supposed to boost academic rigor, covers biology, algebra I, American government, and tenth grade English; students who fail have the option to complete “bridge” projects that prove their competency in the subject material or apply for a waiver to graduate without meeting requirements. That so few failed is not all that surprising, though; state officials made clear when the test was enacted that almost everyone would pass the first year. Ironically, the Old Line State’s data release came one day after that of the new draft Common Core standards. We can only hope the former reminds the latter that having standards is only a first step; to make a difference, they have to be rigorous.

Near-universal passing provokes debate on school standards,” by Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun, September 23, 2009

Md. Says Graduation Stats Prove Exit Exams Work,” by Nelson Hernandez, The Washington Post, September 22, 2009