Ninety percent of students who flunked Massachusetts’ graduation exam said they had a C average or better; 70 percent were planning to go to college. Teachers who give passing grades to semiliterate students are cheating them, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. Students will try harder if they know it’s necessary. They need accurate feedback.
(Teachers) will deny that they are acting dishonorably and dishonestly in their grading of marginal students.
They will say it is wrong to deny diplomas to students on the basis of a single test. They will say the tests do not accurately measure what students need to learn to survive in the world. They will say the tests are cancers smothering all the life in their classrooms. They will say that some students just do not do well on standardized tests. They will say that as professionals they cannot in good conscience fail a student who is trying hard and needs that diploma to have any kind of shot at a job after graduation. They will say that employers want applicants of good character, who show up on time and respect the rules. They will say whether or not a student graduates knowing how to discover an unknown quantity in an algebraic equation or summarize a complex reading passage is not so important.
And they may be right about all of that. But they are paid with tax dollars to do their best to teach their students what the community has decided is important to know. That includes reading and doing math well enough to pass a test that at least 90 percent of high schoolers in Massachusetts seem able to pass . . . It is cheating to accept a salary for helping students reach these standards and then not assess students honestly when they are in danger of flunking that test.