"Raising passing grade to 65 will hit hardest on racial minorities"

Should high school graduation standards be raised, if the change will primarily impact racial minorities?

Here’s the situation:

So, should New York raise the standard or not?

FWIW I took NY State Regents exams in the late 1950’s, and they were a piece of cake.

My own view is that the race of the students scoring between 55 and 65 should be irrelevant. Either we want to give a diploma to these students or we don’t, regardless of race.

Furthermore, the hope is that raising the standard will encourage schools and students and parents to do a better job. So, one racial minorities might turn out to be the biggest benficiaries of higher standards, not the biggest victims.

Having seen these sorts of exams often, and not too long ago, I cannot oppose this. Of course, technically, I can’t effectively support it 'cause I don’t live in New York, but I have a hard time imagining anyone withut serious brain damage not being able to pass these.

Anyway, around here, a 64% is considered an F, end of story.

Is it this guy’s opinion that the grades people get are goal-oriented rather than learning-oriented, i.e., if they have to get a 65 to graduate, they’ll get a 65, even though they’ve been sliding by with 55’s all this time?

Must make the people who got 55’s feel pretty sad.

How about all the people who’ve been shooting for 55 the first three years in high school, and now they have to pull it up to 65? I suspect there shall be some complaining.

How does race figure into this? Does the state intentionally undereducate minorities? Also pretty sad.

To answer that question, I’d have to know why there appears to be such an disparity in test scores among different social groups. Is New York also willing to review why students from Yonkers tend to do less well on the exams and to rectify problems in the relevant school systems? While I have no problem with the raised standards were other factors more equal, it seems like there is a need to improve the educational system in low-income areas so that capable students are not disadvantaged to the point where they can’t pass.

And december: I thought you said you were going to stay out of GD for a while? Isn’t there some sort of patch or something you can use? :wink:

As someone who took the battery of Regents tests not too long ago (HS grad in '98), I would echo the analysis of december that these tests aren’t exactly the hardest thing ever. Secondly, I feel that this problem is wrongly categorized as a racial one, and rather that, along with jr8 and the New Rochelle superintendant from the article, this is an economic issue. My school district was fairly well-to-do, and from what I recall, the kids who didn’t do as well were not of certain racial groups, but rather the ones living in “that part of town”.

If the only thing they were doing was to raise the passing grade (i.e., no changes to teaching methods, etc), then this would seem to be a pretty stupid thing to do. It doesn’t change the education level of the students-- just creates a bunch of kids who don’t have degrees.

One would hope this would be phased in over time in conjunction with some improvements to the actually schooling that the kids receive. And a higher level of expectations should be the rule from day 1 in first grade.

I suggest this is primarily a socio-economic issue: students from economically disadvantaged households do poorly on these tests.

Since race also tracks to some degree with economic disadvantage - that is, a larger percentage of the poor are people of color - the issue seems as though it may be race.

It’s just money. When you have a stable economic home life, with parents that care about academic success, you’ll get more academic success.

I am not sure about these particular tests, but relatively disparate performance on standardized tests like the SAT tends to recur for students of different races even when matched for socio-economic status. That is, the children of rich blacks don’t do as well as the children of rich Asians or whites. In one famous study, the children of whites earning less than $20,000 per year did better than the children of blacks earning more than $70,000 per year.

Explanations of this range from the crippling effects of racism to allegations that much of black culture devalues educational achievement.

Differing socio-economic levels can explain the difference between the lower levels of achievement and the top, but it does not explain differing levels of achievement at the same economic level.


FWIW, this is what Chris Rock thinks the problem is.

‘Passing’ is just an artificial mark put on scholastic achievement. It really doesn’t matter how someone scores, what matters is whether or not they learn something.

The emphasis put on standardized testing is backwards. Rich kids learn how to test well (by taking prep classes, etc.) poor kids get disappointed because the rich kids skew the scale, giving them lower scores.

Some may say that the tests are advantageous to a particular ethnicity. However, there are certain skills that everyone needs to know (math, reading, writing). Those skills are hardly biased towards rich white people. Everyone needs to know standard english and math. It could be a cultural thing, placing low emphasis on education, but changing the tests to reflect that is a bad idea. We should try to raise education as a priority among poor ethnic groups instead.

I don’t see what raising the passing grade will do, unless there’s a concomitant change in standards across the board. I’m not particularly impressed with this decision. To me, it seems to be catering to the perception that raising standards means children are learning more.

Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily. But if educators and parents don’t do more to improve our educational system, it will be.

For anyone who’s interested:

Possible reasons why black students, on average, do worse on SAT than white students

Well, if they have been shooting for a 55%, then I suggest they really need to reasses their priorities. :slight_smile:

55 is F-A-I-L-I-N-G. I can’t believe that anywhere in this country a 55 is actually considered a passing grade.

I would like to thank Monstro for the link. Aside from some obvious slants in the direction of dramatic, it was great reading. I have to admit that I was surprised at all the comparisons of how grossly more whites are excelling on the SATs compared to blacks…um…but the article failed to mention that THERE ARE MANY MANY MANY MORE WHITE PEOPLE THAN BLACK PEOPLE in this country. But, reading it made me feel better (great, even) about spending $10,000 for my son to attend Sylvan learning center.

Shame on ANY school system that does their children the injustice of allowing them to pass on to the next level with a grade of 55…

Heh. Yeah, I’m totally sure raising the standard will motivate failing students to do better. I think it’s similar to arresting more people so there is less crime. It’s all very simple. The more people you arrest the less criminals there will be.

Who cares if black people don’t do as well? Is that our fault as a society? NO! All we are doing is helping them remain poor and uneducated. Here’s another analogy to further elucidate my point; if the U.S. feeds all the people of Ethiopia without requiring them ever to grow their own food they will always be reliant upon us. Hey, most of the country may starve or whatever if we don’t, but can it be denied that the survivors will find a source of food? I don’t think so.

People who argue about what the ‘right’ test score should be are missing the point.

The point is not to score some arbitrary number so that you can get a diploma. The point is to educate people, and the point to a diploma is to give prospective employers and future educators some guarantee that the person has a basic level of education.

If the test is designed so that 65% is a reasonable indicator of basic knowledge, then that’s what the passing mark should be.

If minorities are not passing, then lowering the passing mark is like moving people out of ‘poverty’ by lowering the poverty line - it makes no difference. It does, however, protect the asses of lousy teachers and bad administrators, and by lowering the bar for students and parents, exacerbates the real problems.

Also, it has another pernicious effect - it waters down the value of a diploma, especially for minorities. The end result is to make it harder for minorities to get ahead. The whole purpose of universal testing is to establish a baseline for everyone, so they start out equal. If districts with high minority populations lower their passing grades, all it will do is tell employers that minorities’ diplomas are likely to be less valuable. Not a good result.

The way they make changes in Oklahoma (where I teach) is that a mandate applies to the first class that will be affected by it for all 4 years of high school. Therefore, if this passed in OK, it would go into effect for the class of '07. The wheels of change turn mighty slow here in OK.


Thanks for the linked article, monstro. Interesting reading.

There was one part of the article with which I took issue:

It seems to me that the exact opposite is what is mentioned in the OP. It seems to be the ‘diversity’ advocates who are arguing that black students cannot be expected to make the grade, and the white establishment who take it for granted that they could.

If the Magic Minority Problem Resolution Fairy granted me one wish, I would not wish for an end to white racism. I would wish that math and reading replaced sports and show business as the highest-status activities, for all races in the US.

If a PhD. in math had the same luster as getting into the NBA, the problems of blacks in America would disappear within five years.


OK first to clear something up: the 55 and 65 are NOT percents. They are scores. Different thing. I teach Regents Chemistry in NY. Last year I had a student who got 84% of the questions right, but his score was a 79. I guess that makes sense to someone in Albany…

The biggest problem is that when they raise the minimum passing scores they also change the tests, so we teachers are not sure how to prepare our students. And don’t say “Well, just teach them chemistry and they should be able to pass any test they are given” Please.

Sorry about the hijack.


Where in the article did was anyone identified as a “diversity advocate”? Are “diversity advocates” supposed to not include whites? What made you place the white teachers from monstro’s link immediately into the “white establishment” pile rather than the “diversity advocate” pile? Are the loaded terms and biased assumptions you bring into debates really supposed to be taken seriously?

That doesn’t sound very free-market, does it?

Why does everyone always use race for a way to diferenciate on how someone is doing in anything whether that be grades/sports/jobs/underwater casket weaving… if we would just try to get away from deviding everything into what race catagory you fall into and just look at the person we wouldnt have this problem…*yea im an optimist but its a problem that i see.