Texas high school students can pass most of the state's new end-of-course exams this year by answering fewer than half the questions correctly, prompting concerns that the initial standards are not tough enough.
On the easiest end, freshmen can pass the algebra I and biology exams by getting 20 of 54 questions - 37 percent - correct.
The passing standards, posted on the Texas Education Agency's website late last month, typically draw little public attention, but they are key to students' success or failure on the high-stakes exams. State law now requires students to pass 15 of the tests throughout high school in order to graduate.
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has said the agency decided to phase in the standards, starting lower this year and increasing them through 2016, because students need time to adjust to the much more difficult questions on the new exams.
But a prominent business leader and the head of the state's largest school district suggested the lower bar at the outset will give students, teachers and the public a skewed picture of schools' performance.