Politically, the easy move for state leaders would be to maintain the lower cut score to preserve pass rates in advance of an election year. That they are instead raising standards shows this decision was driven by what's best for Oklahoma kids, not what is easiest for political careers.
No doubt many will be surprised that previous cut scores were so low. But it was a battle to establish and preserve even those standards. In 2012, some school administrators joined Democratic lawmakers to call for repeal of graduation standards because a relative handful of students couldn't meet them.
Furthermore, even the easier testing system incentivized struggling students to do better. Students have been taking the end-of-instructions tests for several years in preparation for implementation of the graduation requirement. From 2008 to 2012, the pass rate for the Algebra II exam rose from 53 percent to 74 percent. The pass rate for Geometry rose from 68 percent to 82 percent and the pass rate for English III jumped from 75 percent to 85 percent. The percentage passing Algebra I also increased.
In short, when the bar was raised, student performance increased. This will happen again as students are required to correctly answer 70 percent of questions.
Oklahomans have high expectations for their local high school football teams. Now the same mindset is being applied to classroom performance.