Demanding Less From Students

If they have a choice, local public school officials in the Northern Panhandle should not go along with the state Board of Education’s move to water down high school graduation requirements.

West Virginia students already lag behind those of many other states in performance on some standardized tests. Colleges and universities continue to complain that many graduates of our high schools are not prepared for higher education. And, in terms of attracting job creators, our state simply does not have a good reputation in public education.

State Board of Education members’ reaction to that was to make it easier to graduate from high school — and easier to pass courses needed to do so.

Last week, the board voted to decrease the number of credits required for graduation from 24 to 22.

In addition, the board agreed to alter the grading scale, in effect requiring students to demonstrate less knowledge of subjects. Under the new scheme, it will be easier to get an A; the old scale required 93-100 percentage points for that grade. The new one starts at 90.

Grade scale changes go on down the line, making it substantially easier to pass a course. Formerly, any score below 65 points was an F. Now, a student can score as low as 60 points and pass with a D.

State officials have all sorts of rationalizations for the change. One is that dropping the credits required for graduation will enable students to take more electives. How? “The only required credits being removed from the current policy are two additional elective credits,” a state Department of Education spokeswoman told our reporter.

That doesn’t sound like encouraging students to take elective courses.

County boards of education do not have to follow the policy on graduation requirements. None in the Northern Panhandle should do so.

As for the grading scale, whether that new policy needs to be followed is uncertain. If local boards have any say, they should not use the new state scale, either.

Making it obvious that public schools will demand less from students simply makes no sense.