How High is the Bar?
The New York Times reports on state education standards and discusses the disparities between them:
For example, an eighth grader in Tennessee can meet that state’s standards for math proficiency with a state test score that is the equivalent of a 230 on the national test. But in Missouri, an eighth grader would need the equivalent of a 311.
The fact that Missouri’s standards are tougher than those promulgated by some other states is often mentioned by opponents of school reform, It was also brought up in the adequacy lawsuit this year when the state argued that pouring huge amounts of money at school districts wouldn’t make everyone proficient.
Are Missouri’s standards too tough? Yes and no. It’s not realistic to expect 100 percent of kids to meet any standard. But compared to Asian countries, our standards are very low. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study website shows that in math, U.S. eighth-grade students are far behind their peers in Singapore, Korea, China, Japan, and several other countries.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing if Americans specialize in skills other than math while foreigners become engineers. But the comparison shows that our idea of a high standard is not really very high.