Lowering the Bar
So your district's students aren't performing well on state standardized tests? Here's one way to motivate them: Allow students who pass the state tests to skip their in-class final exams. That's what's planned for spring semester at Cypress-Fairbanks district high schools in Houston, Texas, where students who pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and have at least a D average can say "no thanks" to several final exams. But some parents and education experts are uneasy about the plan and the message about mediocrity that students might take away. "Who wants their kids going to a district who says a 'D' is good enough for us?" asked one parent. School leaders argued that they've long suspected that students slack on the TAKS exam because a passing grade is not needed to be promoted or to graduate, and the new policy will help them collect more accurate student achievement data. "Students have to be focused and engaged in the test," one district official said. "We're hoping this will provide the motivation needed." Jason Stephens, an educational psychology professor at the University of Connecticut, questioned that strategy. "It is sort of sending them a lesson that mediocrity pays. If you can skate by with a 70, just keep on skating."