WE are among those who support a state law requiring high school seniors to pass tests proving that they've mastered high school content in math, science and English subjects before they can receive a diploma.
That law sets an academic floor in Oklahoma schools. A high school diploma should indicate its bearer has a minimum level of high school learning. Previously, grade inflation and lax standards allowed students to get a diploma they may not have truly earned. Unmerited diplomas do nothing to help kids succeed as adults.
One downside of the testing system — which we have previously noted — is that the bar was still set very low. Students could miss close to half the questions on state tests and be declared proficient. Now, state education officials are raising the bar.
This move deserves our support even if it means more students must retake high school content.
Last week state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi announced that the “cut score,” the grade required to pass a test, has been raised for the most recent Biology I end-of-instruction test. Previously, students had to score only a 52 to be declared proficient. That's an F in any other setting. Now, students will be expected to answer 70 percent of questions correctly. It's not unreasonable to expect Oklahoma high school seniors to manage a C when tested on core subjects. Also, the test now requires greater application of content knowledge.
At the same time, state officials have upgraded fifth- and eighth-grade science and writing tests to include more rigorous questions in conjunction with higher standards.
These changes mean fewer students will pass the tests in the short term. Oklahomans shouldn't be discouraged if the pass rate declines. An emphasis on continual improvement generates far greater results than complacency.