The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published an interesting report last week that compares state proficiency standards to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scale.
Some basic information for those of you who may not know:
- Federal No Child Left Behind legislation allowed states to establish their own student proficiency standards and measure performance against those standards, so there are as many proficiency standards as there are states.
- The NAEP is a national test given to a sample of students in each state and provides the only ready means of comparing student performance across states.
The report’s executive summary states disingenuously that the report is not intended “to imply a judgment about state standards,” but rather “to be descriptive of state-to-state variation in the location of the state standards on a common metric.” Don’t be fooled!
What judgment does NCES want you to make? ”States are setting the bar too low,” says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
- The report finds dramatic differences between the proficiency standards of the five highest and lowest NAEP-scale-equivalent states.
- Significant numbers of states set standards below NAEP basic performance cut points. In fourth grade reading, for example, 31 states (including West Virginia) set proficiency standards below the basic cut point.
- The rigor of state standards has a positive correlation to NAEP proficiency at the 4th grade level, but not at the 8th grade level – which should cause someone to ask whether we spend waste too much time setting these standards if they seem to have no impact on student achievement … but it won’t, I assure you.
How did West Virginia fare among the 48 states for which data were reported for 2007?
- 43rd at Grade 4 reading and a whopping 26 points below NAEP basic and 56 points below NAEP proficient.
- 44th at Grade 8 reading and 14 points below NAEP basic and 52 points below NAEP proficient.
- 36th at Grade 4 math and 3 points above NAEP basic and 32 points below NAEP proficient.
- 41st at Grade 8 math and 9 points below NAEP basic and 46 points below NAEP proficient.
Lake Wobegon anyone?