A new federal study shows that nearly a third of states lowered their academic proficiency standards in recent years, a step that helps schools stay ahead of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law, reports the New York Times. But lowering standards also confuses parents about how their children’s achievement compares with those in other states and countries–and it puts their readiness for college and competition in the workforce in jeopardy. The Education Department study, released Oct. 29, found that 15 states lowered their proficiency standards in fourth- or eighth-grade reading or math from 2005 to 2007. Three states–Maine, Oklahoma, and Wyoming–lowered standards in both subjects at both grade levels, the study said. While eight states increased the rigor of their standards in one or both subjects and grades, "overall, standards were more likely to be lower than higher" in 2007, compared with the earlier year, said Peggy G. Carr, an associate commissioner at the department…

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