The ABCs of Grade Inflation

, Lindalyn Kakadelis, Leave a comment

Raleigh, N. C–
Yesterday, state education officials were expected to announce results from the 2005-06 End-of-Grade math tests, “revamped” to reflect higher standards that are more in line with national norms.

The new guidelines mark the first attempt in 10 years to raise standards for the ABCs school accountability program. Interestingly, the long-awaited media briefing was postponed until November 9th, conveniently scheduled after the election. However, preliminary results were posted later on DPI’s website. While some results were released, it’s not enough. Parents will still not receive any information regarding their child until after the election.

Many parents around the state will take a long hiatus from “joyful moments” thinking their child is proficient, when receiving the new testing results. But even then, can parents really trust the new, much-hyped standards? A recent report from the John Locke Foundation’s education policy analyst Terry Stoops, suggests the new standards can’t fix an accountability system that is beyond repair.

According to Stoops, students were required to answer an average of 40.7 percent of test questions correctly (or 33 out of 80) to be classified as proficient on the 2004-05 EOGs. Following revisions to the 2005-06 test, students needed to answer an average of just 49.4 percent of questions correctly (or 25 out of 50) to be labeled proficient. Since when did getting half of the questions wrong on any test yield a passing grade? Does anyone at DPI really believe the spin that these are “high” standards? The secrecy surrounding these tests keeps parents and the public from actually knowing the rigor.

Forsyth County’s incumbent School Board Member, Buddy Collins, says it best. “I didn’t get very excited with the scores when they were high … because I knew they were wrong … and I am not going to be too disappointed when the scores are low … because I know they are just as wrong as the high scores … when accountability measurements are subject to manipulation for political and/or financial reasons, then we can never fully trust the results … I still don’t trust them.”

Clearly, the time has come for some sunlight and scrutiny. Members of the North Carolina General Assembly ought to force the state Board of Education to adopt a credible national achievement test, and soon. That way, parents will finally have access to meaningful information about student performance, enabling them to compare their kids to same-aged students across the U.S.

Lindalyn Kakadelis heads the North Carolina Education Alliance. This article is excerpted from her weekly column.