Some things are just not surprising: Mark McGwire’s steroid usage, the incompetency suit against Octomom’s fertility doctor, and states backing off graduation test requirements in response to political pressure. Twenty-six states now use passing some kind of test as a diploma requirement, and most if not all of them have faced political pressure that has led to weaker tests, lower standards, and myriad alternative routes to graduation. Some simply pushed off the implementation date, fearing plummeting graduation rates. The result, says one expert, is that “the exams are just challenging enough to reduce the graduation rate, but not challenging enough to have measurable consequences for how much students learn or for how prepared they are for life after high school.” Graduation rates are tricky things, of course, but revelation that the politics of graduation rates are all but unmanageable in state capitals makes one wonder about the upcoming use of the “common core” assessments that Secretary Duncan is about to pay for. They’re supposed to be aligned with standards that are supposed to be aligned with college readiness. But why should anyone suppose that states that sign on to use them will suddenly grow the backbone to actually hold students to college-readiness-level passing scores on them?
“As School Exit Test Prove Tough, States Ease Standards,” by Ian Urbina, New York Times, January 12, 2010
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