From the NY Times:
Three years ago, the threshold for passing was 60 percent. In fact, students in every grade this year could slide by with fewer correct answers on the math test than in 2006.
In math this year, 86 percent of students statewide passed the test, scoring at least a Level 3 (of 4), and 82 percent passed in English, the highest percentages in many years. But the lower passing scores, especially for math, have provided fodder for skeptics who believe the state has made it easier for struggling students to pass.
In New York City, which saw some of the largest gains, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has used the scores as evidence of his successful leadership of the schools. The jump in passing rates also helped 97 percent of the city’s schools earn A’s or B’s on their Department of Education report cards this year.
The mayor also has repeatedly pledged to hold back students who fail the test and do not meet even Level 2, a minimal standard. But the number of right answers needed to reach Level 2 has also dropped, to the point that on some tests, a student could randomly guess and still stand a good chance of moving on to the next grade.