To the Editor:
That states may have lowered standards for student proficiency in order to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act comes as no surprise (“Test Rigor Drops Off, Study Finds,” Nov. 4, 2009). The fiscal consequences they face should their students fail to meet the standards they set are, in effect, an incentive for lower state standards, validated by the lack of consistent proficiency guidelines.
The University of California, Berkeley, professor Goodwin Liu’s 2006 research revealed that the states with the highest variation between student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and state assessments were disproportionately those with a large share of low-income, nonwhite, and English-learning students. Allowing such diminished expectations to endure will continue to place students of color and those from low-income neighborhoods at a disadvantage.
High, common standards are a critical first step in reforming the American education system. If designed and implemented effectively, fairly, and with the input of communities of color, common academic standards hold great potential for addressing the achievement and dropout crisis, which is most pronounced among minority student populations.
Lowering the bar may increase the number of children declared proficient. But it will do nothing to graduate more students ready for work, equipped for college, and prepared to succeed. Common standards should be part of the solution.
Michael T.S. Wotorson
Campaign for High School Equity
A version of this article appeared in the November 18, 2009 edition of Education Week as It’s No Surprise NCLB Has Lowered the Bar