State test score move fails to make the grade

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

While we recognize there’s a problem in America when it comes to preparing kids for college, we’re not sold on the state’s explanation for why it suddenly raised standards for what qualifies as “proficient” in state math and English exams taken by students from grades 3 to 8.

We’re also not too confident the new standards will stick.

The state’s ham-handed way of instituting the policy — not alerting or consulting with the superintendents — will likely result in even more distrust between the state and individual school districts.

The biggest flaw with the new standards, which sent tumbling the percentage of students in Riverhead and elsewhere listed as proficient in math and English, is that the curriculum — or even teacher compensation methods — never received the major overhaul necessary to support the new thresholds.

If the ultimate goal is to better prepare kids for college, we doubt making state assessments harsher will help. It’s not realistic to think that students and teachers will work harder or more efficiently now that fewer students are deemed capable in math and English. Indeed, failing more kids may serve to hurt not only their own confidence in their abilities but their parents’ as well.

We would have thought the education department would have made such a big move only after several months of intense research and public debate. Instead, as was explained in a press conference, education officials were motivated after hearing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January. That all seems pretty arbitrary. And in the end, it will likely emerge as a big waste of time and resources, as common sense would dictate the state will eventually be forced to reverse itself when it sees no positive results.

Click for coverage on how the changes affected Riverhead’s scores.