B students fail state exams

Maryland and Virginia students who pass their classes with B’s and C’s are failing state tests, reports the Washington Post. At one high school, “a quarter of students in beginning algebra passed the course but failed the state test.”

Students and teachers offer an array of explanations for why test scores sometimes fail to match up with grades. Some students don’t take the exams seriously. Some freeze up. Still others trip over unfamiliar language. And teachers sometimes are not prepped in what the exams cover, especially when the tests are new. Occasionally, some school officials suspect, classes aren’t rigorous enough to prepare students adequately.


Update: Eduwonk cites a 1991 study that looked at grades vs. test scores at high-poverty and low-poverty schools: “A” students in seventh-grade math and reading tested at the 35th and 36th percentile in high-poverty schools; in low-poverty schools, “A” students tested up in the 80s.

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  1. Schools should be required to post the GPAs for their students, just as they do for standardized tests. This would give parents a quick check on whether grade inflation is a problem with their schools. When GPAs and standardized scores mismatch at too high a level, then schools should be required to submit the tests given children by the teachers where these mismatches occur to insure that the teachers are testing the children appropriately. Audit teams from the State (or perhaps County level) should also investigate to determine if there is a systemic problem at a given school. Standardized testing that is aligned with state standards would go a long way to deal with this problem.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    There is an alternative explanation, both more innocent and more sinitster.

    State tests are given near the end of the school year. Students are graded throughout the year. It is the dirty little secret of the ed. business that students rarely LEARN much. They memorize for a few weeks, do reasonably well on the within-year tests, and then forget most of what they had supposedly “learned.”

    They can quite legitimately earn Bs and Cs, given the way they are tested, and then show at the end of the year that they haven’t actually made much of the knowledge their own.

  3. When I was in High School in the not so distant past, the kids earning B’s and C’s (and sometimes A’s) were getting 40% or 50% on their in-year tests. While the memorize it for a few weeks thing is a problem, another problem is the significance of homework in many letter grades. Often times, it makes up enough of the grade that a kid conscientious enough to do it all could get away with failing test after test and still get a B in the class, all in the name of not hurting their college chances.

  4. I am dealing with this exact situation with my elder daughter. She consistently earns 90-97 percent at school, but tests at “basic” level (i.e., C average). I’m always told that the test covers material before the school curriculum does. But the homework/school work she brings home shows me that she doesn’t comprehend the material. (I honestly don’t know how they compute her A/A scores — lots of easy filler material, I think.) When I challenge her on the homework/school work she submits, she says “Well, my report card says I’m an A student” (she’s 11 going on 16….).

    I’m struggling with how to deal effectively with this discrepancy with the principle/teacher(s).

    She is smarter than “C” work, but doesn’t have intrinsic motivation to do more than her teachers demand (as opposed to my other daughter).

    How, as a parent, can I make my daughter understand that she needs to accomplish at a higher level than her school demands? How can I pressure the school district/principle/teacher(s) to become more academically rigorous?

    Any suggestions/resource citations would be appreciated.

  5. wmartin46 wrote:

    When GPAs and standardized scores mismatch at too high a level, then schools should be required to submit the tests given children by the teachers where these mismatches occur to insure that the teachers are testing the children appropriately.

    First you have to have standardized tests that mean something. Then the data has to be available widely, in a timely manner and in understandable/useable form. Finally, you need some fairly remorseless means of applying the information uncovered by the testing. That means something other then “Audit teams from the State” because the political independence of public school districts is something the districts will fight for and, in general, maintain.

    The political nature of public education means that adverse findings will have their impact softened by suggestions, improvement plans, committee recommendations, improvement timetables subject to review and waivers based on special circumstances like a hurricane or a state audit department with little stomach for noisy, ugly fights about school quality. Parents, having no such political clout will enjoy the sensation of standing helplessly by while their children’s futures are thrown away.

    Of course, that outcome only occurs where parents have to accept the school to which their kids are assigned.