To Idaho, now, where the state Board of Education wants to implement high school entrance requirements. If enacted, all eighth-grade students would need to earn a cumulative C average in four subjects and pass pre-algebra before moving on. Those who do not will - presumably - be retained for another year. That's the catch, though. The board hasn't specified how it intends to provide for those middle-schoolers who miss the mark. Would they simply stay where they were for another year, repeating that which they failed at the first time around, or would they move to a special, remedial middle school? The board has no specific plan for financing either option. And how fair is it to base requirements on GPA when a C in one school's science class could easily translate into a D or F in another's? The impetus for all this is Idaho's standardized test scores which, like scores around the nation, drop off precipitously between the elementary and high school years. Instead of implementing vague exit requirements, Idaho might do better to base promotion on the passage of a rigorous exam. Better yet, it might focus on reforming and restructuring its middle school curriculum. (See here.) If the Gem State's middle schools are like those in the rest of the country, they suffer from low academic expectations and an emphasis on social development rather than learning. Giving middle school teachers an incentive to inflate their students' scores could make that illness even more acute.

"Ticket to high school may be a C average," by Bill Roberts, Idaho Statesman, October 12, 2005

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