NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some States Lower Academic Standards

December 3, 1999

Hot on the heels of reports that Los Angeles education officials are considering lowering the bar regarding acceptable academic standards for student promotions comes evidence that other districts around the country are considering similar moves.

Many students are simply flunking the tougher tests and educators fear chaos will result if all those who fail are denied promotion to the next higher grade.

  • Wisconsin has withdrawn a test that every student would have had to pass to graduate from high school.
  • After only one in every 10 Arizona sophomores passed a new state math test last spring, the state's Board of Education has announced it is reconsidering the test.
  • After only 7 percent of Virginia schools met a standard test last spring which would allow them to be accredited, the Board of Education there has proposed waiving some sanctions against schools that failed but were able to demonstrate progress.
  • Massachusetts and New York have set low passing grades on tests students are required to pass for high school graduation.

In recent years, every state except Iowa has legislated higher academic standards for public school students in some form and for at least some grades.

Now, as one educator put it, "People are backpedaling." He adds, however, that backpedaling "is smart when you're heading over a cliff."

Source: Jacques Steinberg, "Academic Standards Eased as a Fear of Failure Spreads," New York Times, December 3, 1999.


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