State testing change could mean more students passing

Posted March 6, 2014


The State Board of Education voted this week to approve standards that will lower the scores needed to pass end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

In an 8-4 vote, the board expanded the number of achievement levels from four to five for this year’s standardized exams. The change will allow school leaders to get a better sense of a student’s level of achievement, said Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.

“Most of the superintendents believe that this would allow them to have greater precision and allow them to differentiate instruction,” she said at the state board meeting.

Atkinson noted that the change will allow some flexibility for borderline students who may have failed to meet grade-level requirements by a question or two in past years.

Before the change, results on state exams were divided into four achievement levels, with Level 1 and 2 considered not proficient and Levels 3 and 4 considered passing. With the new fifth level, a Level 3 will become the equivalent of a high Level 2 on last year’s exams.

Level 3 now means a student has “sufficient command” of the material, “but are not yet on track for college and career readiness without additional academic support.”

Read To Achieve

The change, which will begin this school year, is particularly significant to third-grade students. Under the state’s new Read-To-Achieve law, third-grade students who do not pass the end-of-grade reading exam risk attending summer reading camps and not being promoted.

If the proposed new scores had been used last year, the passing rate on the state’s third-grade reading test would have jumped by 11.6 percent, according to Tammy Howard, director of accountability operations for the state Department of Public Instruction.

Becky Taylor, a board member, said she feels torn about the new fifth level and wanted to make sure that schools don’t “leave behind that 10 or 11 percent of students that potentially could use additional intervention.”

Atkinson said those students will still get the help they need, noting the ways in which schools and teachers can offer individualized help in the classroom with real-time assessments.

Public school students take end-of-grade tests in grades 3-8 for reading, math, language arts and science. There are also end-of-course classes for high-school level biology, math and English.


This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their <a href="external_link-1">education coverage</a>.

Reema Khrais is the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC
and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.


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  • Edward Levy Mar 7, 2014
    user avatar

    That is it, lower the levels, so they will not even be able to get jobs in McDonalds, Burger King, etc.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 7, 2014

    SO when are we going to pull the plug on these lousy public schools? Really, not enough kids passing, oh here is the fix lower the threshold for getting a passing grade. Why not drop it to zero? That way everyone passes, or return to your proven method where you pass the kid along to the next grade regardless of their performance. We have a corrupt system and I feel bad for the teachers that actually do try to educate the kids.

  • Joseph Shepard Mar 7, 2014
    user avatar

    SWEETLYGHT: The issue of separate but equal was settled with the CRA, and integration was begun. True. The issue of lowering academic standards is still ongoing as evidenced by the modifications being proposed for state tests.
    The salient point here being that as each set of classes completed the public schools curriculums--at the lowered standards, each wave of students became increasingly less able to meet even the then existing lower standards--ergo, the standards had to be lowered once again. And as you correctly state, a kindergardner in a 12 year school would have been out of the system by 76 or 77. That does not in any way mean that in 76 or 77 the standards were, or would have been, increased. The standards remained at the lower level and as time has passed, have been repeatedly lowered even more. Its not the fault of the students rather the response of the educational system to the initial integration programs.

  • stymieindurham Mar 7, 2014

    Ummm...politicians made this decision...not educators...but what can we expect from a failing public government?

    Noooooo, you're not going to put this on the legislature. Thats a left-wing tatic. This falls squarely in the lap of the education system. Te same system that wants ore money and tenture.

  • stymieindurham Mar 7, 2014


    The only thing I just read was more teacher blah, blah, blah!!!
    Lowering acceptance standards, hiring standards, performance standards, TEACHING standards, etc. DOES NOT help anyone. You're simply adding MORE students to the group that are being pushed through the system just to keep your numbers up.

  • stymieindurham Mar 7, 2014

    When the kids cant meet the standards... lower the standards. What can we expect from the failing public education system?

    Now wait a minute!!!! We were told this would get BETTER if the teachers are paid more and given tenure. And why are we now lowering standards????????

  • jpm1994 Mar 7, 2014

    I don't think there is any connection between kids passing or failing and racism. Society must learn that not every child will be an A+ student and there will always be students not able to earn grades high enough to enter college. This fact applies to black, white, Hispanic and Asian children. We must find and appreciate the best teachers, provide them with all the tools and equipment to do the job and let them do what they are paid for. Apply annual evaluations to the teachers, reward the teachers proving they are doing the job. Teachers not making the grade should be given additional help and education to help them progress. If they do not show improvement after two years of teaching, replace them. I know, the unions will scream at me but this is a very serious matter and the unions must realize the education of the children supersedes the desires of the union. Lowering the standards only hurts the country and does not help the children.

  • Cheree Teasley Mar 7, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You do realize that, lowering the standards a second time after the equal but seperate was no longer an issue errodes your theory. Lets keep in mind that of course on some level there would be an impact with school intergration, however while education may have not been equal, it was not non-existing. Lets keep on mind that African Americans of that day were attending school, and in some states non-segregated schools (my mother never attended a segregated school, my mother in law did). Let's keep in mind that a mere 17 states had various institutionalized separation laws. Let's also keep in mind that a teacher with 30 years of experiance as of right here and now started teaching in the mid 80s. Let's keep in mind equal but seperate was overturned in 1954 and the Civil Rights act was passed in 1964. Even a kindergardener in a 12 year program should of been out of the system by 1976 or 77.

  • Joseph Shepard Mar 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Contd: The schools lowered the standards which impacted all students. As the years progressed, the lowered standards soon became, again, a problem in that students could not perform at the existing levels. The solution, lower the standards yet again. This has been until recently the normal practice --lowering the standards needed to pass and/or graduate. Changing the standardized tests to reflect these lowered standards is just one more example. Remember, we're not talking just about minority student performance--but performance of all students. The curriculum, and associated standards have been dummied down so much now that its had a serious and negative impact on the students in this nation. It has been estimated that each year, something well over 100,000 students are "graduated"--and they can't read the words on their diploma. And understand-this has nothing to do with the ability of minority students--just the systems response to integration.

  • Joseph Shepard Mar 7, 2014
    user avatar

    SWEETLYGHT: " That the end of seperate but equal and the intergation of schools was a great difficulty for black students of the civil rights age, and continues to be today, and 2. that historically it has a large scale connection to current student performance. " That is precisely the point I wanted to make. As I stated, a truly huge proportion of schools in this nation were separate but certainly not equal. The minority schools were underfunded, understaffed and poorly equipped. Given these limitations, the majority of minority students were not academically prepared to enter the white schools and their higher standards. The schools faced three possible solutions. A: bring the minority students in and let them succeed or fail on their own. That obviously would have meant large numbers of racial discrimination law suits. B: Try to tutor the minority students and bring them up to the white standards. C: Lower the existing standards for all students.