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Unions Pushing for Weakened PASS Tests

September 24, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Neil Mellen
Communications Director
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)
803.212.1051

“Children are the losers when school standards are lowered.”

That’s the message of South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG), a Columbia-based education watchdog group working to draw attention to scoring details of the newly adopted Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) test.

In South Carolina the Association of School Administrators (SCASA) and the School Boards Association (SCSBA) are lobbying to lower achievement standards in public schools. While weakened benchmarks might provide job security and political cover for their membership, they come at a high cost to the parents and children in South Carolina.

When South Carolina’s State Legislature replaced the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests (PACT) with the new PASS test, it did so in order to give teachers more timely and detailed information about students’ abilities. It also tentatively adjusted the number of student performance tiers from four (advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic) to just three (not met, met, and exemplary).

Now, as the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) prepares to finalize details of how these rankings are applied to test scores, some Committee members argue that the original four-level grading system offers a more rigorous standard that ought to be retained. The Associated Press (AP) has reported that officials from SCASA and SCSBA are pressuring the EOC to use the weaker three-tiered benchmarks.

The PACT test had many problems. It was expensive and time consuming. Still, the use of four rather than three student achievement levels made the test more rigorous than the new PASS, should the PASS be implemented with only three levels of student performance.

Standardized testing, once seen as the key to measuring and improving student achievement, has devolved into a stomach turning morass of patronage and special interest,” explained Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government. “Renting-seeking testing contractors, turf-protecting political incumbents, and self-serving school officials are working to further lower school standards in order to conceal persistent failures in public schools across South Carolina.”

An employee of Data Recognition Corp, the politically connected Minnesota-based testing firm that develops tests, seems to agree. He recently told the AP that under the three-tiered design more students would fall into higher achievement categories. In other words, without any measurable rise in scores, more students and schools would automatically “PASS” the test!   ###

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