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NEW NCES REPORT MAPS STATE PROFICIENCY ONTO NAEP SCALES: Report Finds Wide Variation Among States in the Rigor of Their Standards

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"Mapping state standards for proficient performance on the NAEP scales showed wide variation among states in the rigor of their standards."

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds that many states set standards for proficiency that fall below the basic standard on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). According to the report, Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007, thirty-one states set fourth-grade standards for proficiency that were lower than the cut point for basic on NAEP. The same was true for fifteen states on eighth-grade reading tests. In math, seven states fall into this category for fourth-grade tests while eight do so for eighth grade.

In order to map state standards onto the NAEP scale, NCES found the point on the NAEP scale at which the percentage of students who score above that point equals the percentage of students who meet the state’s own performance standard. For example, in state A, the score at which 66 percent of students score above proficient is equal to 191 on the NAEP scale. In state B, however, the point at which 66 percent of students score above proficient is equal to 212 on the NAEP scale. (Much more information on the mapping process is available in the report). The main point to take away from the mapping process is that a higher scale score means that a state has set a higher bar for proficiency on its state test.

For eighth-grade reading, the average NAEP scale equivalent score was 246, which is only three points higher than the NAEP cut point for basic performance (243). The NAEP score for proficient is 281-only South Carolina has a scale score at or above the NAEP proficient score. As shown in the table below, South Carolina and Missouri have the most difficult standards for proficiency in eighth-grade reading while Tennessee and Georgia have the least difficult standards.

Highest and Lowest NAEP Scale Equivalent Scores in Eighth-Grade Reading, 2007

State NAEP Scale Score State NAEP Scale Score
South Carolina 281 Tennessee 211
Missouri 272 Georgia 215
Minnesota 266 North Carolina 217
Vermont 263 Texas 222
Florida 262 West Virginia 229

 

 

 

 

 

Note: The average NAEP scale equivalent score is 246. The NAEP cut score is 243 for basic and 281 for proficient. The higher the scale score, the higher the bar for proficiency on that state’s test.

The St. Joseph News-Press said that Cheri Patterson, associate superintendent in Missouri, thinks that the study is a double-edged sword. “On one hand, she likes the fact that Missouri holds its students and teachers to high levels of expectation,” the newspaper reported. “What she doesn’t like is the fact that Missouri is unfairly judged and compared to other districts that do not have the same level of expectation.”

In eighth-grade math, the mean NAEP scale equivalent was 271 on the NAEP scale, which is above the NAEP cut point for basic performance (262). As shown in the table below, two states, South Carolina and Massachusetts have a scale higher than the 299 proficient score on NAEP. Meanwhile, ten states have a scale score below the NAEP basic score.

Highest and Lowest NAEP Scale Equivalent Scores in Eighth-Grade Math, 2007

State NAEP Scale Score State NAEP Scale Score
South Carolina 312 Tennessee 234
Massachusetts 302 Georgia 243
Hawaii 294 Oklahoma 249
Missouri 289 Illinois 251
Washington 286 Connecticut 252

 

 

 

 

Note: The average NAEP scale equivalent score is 271. The NAEP cut score for is 262 for basic and 299 for proficient. The higher the scale score, the higher the bar for proficiency on that state’s test.

“Mapping state standards for proficient performance on the NAEP scales showed wide variation among states in the rigor of their standards,” the report reads. “The implication is that students of similar academic skills, but residing in difference states, are being evaluated against different standards for proficiency in reading and mathematics.”

“Today’s study confirms what we’ve known for a long time: States are setting the bar too low,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “In all but a few cases, states aren’t expecting students to meet NAEP’s standard of proficiency. Far too many states are telling students that they are proficient when they actually are performing below NAEP’s basic level. At a time when we should be raising standards to compete in the global economy, more states are lowering the bar than raising it. We’re lying to our children when we tell them they’re proficient but they’re not achieving at a level that will prepare them for success once they graduate.”

The report also compares how 2007 NAEP scale equivalents for state standards match up with those estimated for 2005 and examines whether NAEP’s and a state’s assessment agree on the changes in the proportion of students who meet that standard for proficiency from 2005 to 2007.

The complete report is available at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2010456.asp.

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