”’GRIH Comment: What John details here is exactly the same problem that has been documented in this state; student testing is much less rigorous than is required by a national standard. Until the residents of this state demand a real accounting, they have little to complain about. (dn)”’

After repeated miscues have demonstrated that North Carolina’s testing program is flawed in its concept and execution’ our state-only tests are not comparable to those of other states and are simply too easy to pass, the education establishment in North Carolina appears to have come to a conclusion about what to do next.

”’Lift arms. Place hands tightly over ears. Shake head. Sing “SpongeBob SquarePants” theme song loudly and continuously until the issue goes away.”’

Or something like that. Anyway, it has become obvious that the State Board of Education, key members of the General Assembly and Easley administration, and those who have their rapt attention know that there is a problem with North Carolina’s end-of-grade tests but are afraid to do anything substantive about it. They see any policy change as opening up a can of wriggling worms that might just slip away.

If they entertain seriously the possibility of swapping out the flawed state tests for an independent, comparable national test such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, they fear that opponents of any kind of standardized testing will see an opening and try to demagogue the issue. On the other hand, they also probably fear that use of a new test, one outside of their control, will reveal that recent test-score gains in North Carolina have been exaggerated, and that significantly more students will fail to meet a realistic grade-level standard in reading and math.

But the relatively few insiders and educrats involved in discussions of the issue thus far should not have the last word. Committed teachers, parents, and taxpayers have every right to intervene forcefully at this point, to demand that North Carolina no longer employ tests with cut scores so low that students are statistically likely to guess their way to a passing grade. Without change, we’ll continue to spend billions of tax dollars a year within an accountability system that, despite its good features, relies on a fatally flawed way of measuring student performance.

We do students no favors by making it artificially easy to pass grade-level tests. Eventually, they’ll have to perform. It may be as soon as public high school in North Carolina, where there may soon be a requirement to pass at least four tests in five core subjects. (It really ought to be all five, but again education officials fear the worst given that only about half of high-schoolers currently do so.) Either the high-school tests will be watered down or manipulated, too — and this will be hard to hide for long — or many students considered at “grade level” will find themselves far behind when they get to the higher grades.

Now is the time to act. Gov. Mike Easley says that his second term will be devoted to upgrading the education and job skills of the state. There would be no better legacy for him to leave than to correct previous errors in education policy and leave North Carolina’s public schools with a rigorous, meaningful set of academic standards and assessments that allow students and parents to know where they stand, educators to know which teaching practices are succeeding, and taxpayers to know that their hard-earned money isn’t being squandered in a pointless exercise.

”’John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.”’

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at: http://www.grassrootinstitute.org/”’

”’HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com”’

”Offshoots”

DEMOGRAPHICS PUT U.S. FISCAL DEFICIT IN NEW LIGHT

Daily Policy Digest

TRADE ISSUES

Monday, Jan. 17, 2005

The U.S. trade deficit, about 6 percent of national income, is funded by capital inflows from foreign nations. Although some suggest that foreigners may have grown weary of U.S. investments, according to Michael Pitts of Peking University, creditor nations such as Japan and Europe will be forced to save as much as possible — and accumulate claims on foreign economies — in the years ahead in order to pay for their own troubled welfare programs.

Rising demands from pensioners, greater expenditures on health and various other costs all must be paid with a rapidly declining workforce:

Over the next 40 to 50 years, Europe

Comments

comments