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sc dumbed down standards

A little over a week ago, FITS published an in-depth report exploring the political maneuvering behind the “dumbing down” of South Carolina’s new statewide academic standard, the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) test.

It’s a sad, sordid tale replete with cozy backroom deals and special interest-driven decision-making … one that keeps the state’s taxpayer-funded lobbyists and educrats well-paid, but prevents thousands of South Carolina public school children from reaching their full potential each year.

Sadly, because South Carolina’s failed status quo has proven utterly incompetent when it comes to educating our children (both poor black ones and “rich” white ones), it has resorted to “moving the academic goalposts” in an effort to fool parents into thinking the job is getting done.

“Fake it till you make it,” in other words.

For example, our report noted that the new PASS test standards proposed by the S.C. Education Oversight Commission “guarantee that thousands of students and dozens of schools will now magically “pass” the exam – without any measurable increase in academic performance whatsoever.”

Now, that analysis has been confirmed by the nation’s leading testing authority – the Seattle, Washington-based Northwest Evaluation Association.

In fact, here’s an excerpt from a new analysis prepared by the NWEA:

Whereas the older PACT standards were among the highest in the nation, the newly proposed PASS standards would rank among the bottom quartile in a recent cross-state comparison of proficiency standards within 27 states.  Use of the lower standards would result in dramatic increases in the percentages of students meeting standards in South Carolina schools, even with no actual improvement in student performance.

Wow.

Did you catch that?  Here’s the critical conclusion again, in case you missed it …

Use of the lower standards would result in dramatic increases in the percentages of students meeting standards in South Carolina schools, even with no actual improvement in student performance.

This quote originally appeared Monday morning on the website of The Voice, South Carolina’s leading pro-parental choice website, prompting a flood of complaints from educrat sources who oppose the website because of its consistent advocacy for more choices for parents.

FITS spoke with Dr. John Cronin of the Northwest Evaluation Association on Monday, however, and he confirmed the authenticity of the quote, as well as the conclusions reached by the NWEA – which take all the air out of educrat arguments in favor of the PASS test modifications.

After all, proponents of this deliberate “dumbing down” of South Carolina standards have been claiming all along that they were merely attempting to reconcile the new text with existing standards.

“We’re not lowering the standards,” a spokeswoman for the S.C. Association of School Administrators told The State newspaper last week. “We’re not lowering the expectations of what students are expected to learn. We didn’t change the standards at all. We’re just saying that meeting the standards on PASS means the same thing as meeting the standards on PACT.”

Yeah … right.

South Carolina school teachers have consistently supported the implementation of tougher standards, but they have always been overruled by school administrators who favor lowering the bar.

PASS was approved this year to replace the hated Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, which has been administered for years by Data Recognition Corporation – a company with ties to a well-heeled status quo lobbyist.

PACT was loathed in the education community because it was not a “diagnostic” test, meaning it failed to provide parents and teachers with real-time results of their children’s academic progress.  It also failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind reporting standards because it didn’t let administrators accurately compare our children’s academic progress with the progress of kids in other states.

On top of all that, PACT was one of the country’s most expensive assessment tests, forcing South Carolina taxpayers to spend three to four times what other states spend per child on testing.

Amazingly, the same company responsible for this mess – Data Recognition Corporation – was paid over $800,000 by the state to recommend changes to the flawed PACT, and not surprisingly also won the contract to administer the dumbed-down PASS exam.

UPDATED: Here’s a copy of the report complete with a bunch of handy-dandy charts and graphs …

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