Graduation rewind

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