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Randi Kaye| BIO
So let me get this straight!
Schools across the country are lowering standards – actually dumbing down lesson plans – to avoid sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
That act was President George W. Bush’s signature education reform. It mandates that every child in school must be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014 and schools that fall short are subject to sanctions.
Now a new federal study shows that nearly a third of the states lowered academic standards in recent years. Fifteen states in all lowered proficiency standards in fourth and eighth-grade reading or math from 2005 to 2007. Three states – Maine, Oklahoma, and Wyoming – lowered standards in both subjects at both grade levels. Yikes!
On a positive note, though, the study found eight states actually raised their standards even though their funding was threatened.
The federal study found some states had been lowering their proficiency standards which made it easier for lower test scores to qualify as proficient. Isn’t the idea of going to school about raising students proficiency and making kids smarter? It was when I was younger.
What is more important, avoiding sanctions or giving kids a better education? Parents, if you’re reading this, how would you feel about your child’s school making it easier for your child to get by?
For example, in Mississippi, the state with the least rigorous standards, a score of 163 is considered “proficient” but in Massachusetts, at the top, the bar for proficiency is set at 232. That’s a difference of 69 points. Should your child’s education be determined by zip code?
The standards, according to the study, are highest in Massachusetts and South Carolina. Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee were among the lowest. But the standards around the country are all over the place. Translation: fourth graders in Massachusetts may be learning at a much higher level than those in, say, Tennessee. In the end, who does that hurt? And who will really be better prepared for the future?
Right now, there is no uniform standard for proficiency. The states, except for Texas and Alaska which declined, are working together to create some type of common academic standards.
The way NCLB works is schools get to set their own standards and write their own standardized tests. All they have to do is make sure their kids pass them. Dumbing them down practically guarantees that! If the students don’t pass, the federal government will take away some of the money the schools were given. Schools may also have to pay for tutoring students or even bus kids to another school where they can possibly do better. So instead of taking that risk, some schools simply made it easier for the kids to look proficient without really being proficient. Then they get to keep their funding and everybody’s happy, right?
Not exactly says the Obama Administration. It’s been trying to persuade states to adopt a uniform set of tougher standards for education but because education policy is largely controlled at the state level, the federal government can’t impose a set of standards. Education Secretary Arne Duncan puts it this way: “We’re lying to our children when we tell them they’re proficient, but they’re not achieving at a level that will prepare them for success once they graduate.”
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