IS OUR KIDS LAZY?….Alexandra Starr writes in Slate that perhaps low high school test scores in the United States are due to lack of motivation, not lack of smarts:

Look at Texas: In 2004, results counted toward graduation for the first time, and pass rates on both the math and English portions of the test leapt almost 20 points. According to Julie Jary, who oversees student assessment for the state, no substantive alterations were made to the test. What changed was students’ motivation: When their diplomas were hanging in the balance, they managed to give more correct answers.

The pass rates are here, and sure enough, between 2003 and 2004 the pass rate for English went from 61% to 83% and for mathematics from 44% to 67% (using the “Panel Recommended” standard).

Unfortunately, in the entire article this is the only piece of evidence Starr marshals in favor of the motivation thesis ? and frankly, the very size of the Texas improvement makes me suspicious that there’s more going on there than meets the eye.

So: interesting idea. Plausible, too, even if Starr admits that kids in Japan and Britain do better than us on international tests even though scores have no impact on graduation there either. Still, it would be nice to have more than one lonely piece of data in hand before grinding out a thousand words on the topic. Color me skeptical.