Gov. Pat McCrory is the latest state official to warn about lower student performance on standardized tests.
Test results for end-of-grade and end-of-course tests will be released next week. More than half the students failed most of the tests, and passing rates dropped dramatically from last year.
McCrory said at an Education Cabinet meeting Wednesday that the scores would amount to "tough news," but that standards are higher now. The tests are based on new Common Core and state standards.
"We in North Carolina are basically performing in a higher league," he said.
Education officials want to spotlight student growth, where the numbers are apparently more encouraging.
"Growth scores will look good," said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey.