North Carolina's State Board of Education voted last week to lower the minimum score for passing state exams. This decision will specifically impact a significant number of third graders who were at risk of either being retained or having to attend summer reading camps. For all practical purposes, the board's decision makes it clear that academic standards are negotiable - especially if they challenge our students academically, and show that many of them are not adequately prepared for the next grade level.
There are many reasons why North Carolina's students rank in the bottom half of the nation in academic performance. The most prominent is that our state's leaders have yet to understand the true value of a good education. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that a great state is the product of a great public school system? In other words, if our students are well educated they will grow up to make North Carolina economically competitive at the national and global levels.
Playing dodge ball with our state's academic standards is not in the best interest of our children. If a third grade student cannot read well enough to succeed in fourth grade then she or he needs the school's attention. Nothing more - nothing less. Going from four achievement levels (I, II, III, IV), where levels III and IV are passing, to five achievement levels, where levels IV and V are passing, will do little to improve our students' reading levels. On the other hand, keeping the standards high, and making sure that students who don't meet the minimum requirements get the necessary help, will certainly go a long way in giving our educational system some much needed credibility.