Setting Low Standards For Public School Students
Most families leave independent schools for the same reasons: the child graduates, the family relocates, or in many cases, they decide to attend the local public school, especially if they live in a district where the schools are well funded and considered to be excellent as evidenced by the students’ performance on standardized tests.
Local districts often promote test scores to show their educational effectiveness, but there is good reason to be wary of these claims. For years the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been assessing state curriculums, and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they have been tracking each state’s progress in implementing their own established standards. The Fordham Foundation found that even if a high percentage of students are deemed “proficient” in reading or math in a certain district, it does not mean they are even working at grade level, much less becoming prepared for the rigors of college and the workplace.
This is unfortunately grim news for the public school students of Wisconsin, where up until 2012, the state boasted one of the highest rates of reading and math proficiency in the country. Upon examination, the Fordham Foundation found that the bar for deeming a student “proficient” in reading and math was set lower in Wisconsin than almost any other state in the country. For example, in Massachusetts, the cut-off for reading proficiency is 65% and mathematics is 77%, whereas in Wisconsin the cut-off for deeming a fourth-grade student proficient in reading is 16% and in mathematics is just 29%!
The Fordham Foundation found that there is no shared state-to-state standards for determining proficiency in reading or mathematics. Instead, these standards are decided by local and state governments weighed down by pressures to have their schools and students “do well” in the ratings. If student proficiency within the public schools is graded “on the curve,” schools may appear a lot more successful than they really are, and parents will not have the best information from which to base their decisions and expectations about their children’s schooling.