Raised Standards, Lower Scores, Higher Achievement
May 28, 2013

If you've ever seen a high jump competition, then you know that the jumper's goal is to clear the bar at increasingly higher levels. Keeping the bar at the same height will not improve the athlete's skills. The bar must be raised and training improved for him or her to get better, even if it means they fall short on the first few tries.

The same theory applies to instruction and testing. We know that students who are asked to perform at the same level of rigor will never improve. Sure, they'll ace the test if it's given at the same level over and again. But what good would that do?

Standards have been raised across North Carolina. Our new Standard Course of Study is more rigorous and demanding. New assessments were put in place in 2012-13 to ensure that students are being accurately measured against those standards.

Our students aren't learning less. In fact, they are learning more and learning how to learn at deeper levels of understanding and greater mastery of content. The rigor must increase so that the achievement levels will follow suit.

Because of this, parents across our state may see lower scores for their students when test results are released this fall. The new Standard Course of Study is more rigorous and challenging, and the new assessments given this spring are more difficult.

This is not new to our state, as scores tend to drop when standards are raised and tests are re-normed (see chart below). This pattern also has been seen in other states, such as Kentucky and New York, which also recently raised standards for student learning.

We know from our own history that every time we raise expectations, there is a dip in student scores and school performance. But, over time, students rise to expectations and schools perform at higher levels.

Higher standards for our students provide a better foundation for their success in college and careers. It's the right move to make.

Test Trend Chart
(ppt, 1.5mb)

June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent