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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."


The Texas idea has a certain amount of appeal. The kids take far too many tests! Here in California, the state actually administers two year-end exams in math. Then we have our class test and the district test. In private industry, these would be viewed as a great waste of resources.

If a child can do well on the "big" test, why bother with the little test? And if the child does well on the state test, why on earth give him a low grade in the class, when he has clearly learned the material?

Of course, all of this depends on the state returning the test scores promptly. Here in California, the kids take the test at the end of April and we get the results in mid-August. ... Guess we can't quite implement this idea in this state.

Thank goodness we can't implement this crazy idea in California. To think that our state's exit exam is a true measure of competence is a joke. Sadly, many students who have passed the exam before earning enough credits to graduate, share the attitude that now they know it all so why bother getting any better than a D in class. They do not know it all. Most them can barely write at a 7th grade level, and how they ever passed the exit exam is a mystery--that is unless one knows how dumbed down the California exit exam is.

The district in which I teach allows a student to exempt the final exams in the core class if they have passed the corresponding grade level TAKS test. (Yes, I'm in Tx) The problem I have with this is that TAKS only covers content through the tenth grade. Why should a Chemistry, Physics, or AP Science student be exempted from a final exam because they passed a lower level state test? There is talk about reinstating the End Of Course Exams instead of the TAKS test. I hope it happens soon.

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Recent Comments

  • ChemistryTeacher: The district in which I teach allows a student to read more
  • Jaded Teacher Woman: Thank goodness we can't implement this crazy idea in California. read more
  • MathTeacherGuy: The Texas idea has a certain amount of appeal. The read more




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