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State Test Scores Indicate Inconsistencies in Proficiency Standards Across States

State Test Scores Indicate Inconsistencies in Proficiency Standards Across States

A report from the National Center for Education Statistics- often known as "The Nation's Report Card-" compares each states' idea of proficiency using test scores from respective state exams and from the National Assessment of Educational Performance – or NAEP-using 2013 data.

The report found that how states define proficiency compared to the standard of the NAEP varies greatly.

In other words, "[a] top-scoring student on Arizona's reading test may fall far below average in states with more rigorous exams, like Massachusetts or Wisconsin," according to NPR.

Important to note, however, is that the report included data from 2013, before many states had rolled out state exams in line with Common Core standards. Common Core standards, in part, aimed to fix this disparity in what is considered proficient.

The NAEP is a good way to determine variation in what states consider proficient because it breaks down scores per subject into three levels: below basic, basic, and proficient and determines different score requirements for those respective levels depending on grade level and subject, NPR said.

To understand how different states have different standards, "[i]n Alabama, to be proficient on state tests in math, students need to score the equivalent of a 207 on the NAEP –- by NAEP standards well below basic. By Kentucky standards, students needed an equivalent of 246 to be proficient — which falls on the high end of NAEP's basic level," the article said.

For states with low standards, such as Alabama, Georgia, and Idaho, experts insist raising standards is key for ultimate student achievement and career preparedness.

"There is some good news. As a nation, the new report finds, the U.S. is getting better at math. But in reading, the states with good scores are getting better and the lower performing states are flat. So the range of what is deemed proficient is growing."

With the implementation of Common Core standards and the introduction of more difficult state exams this past school year, it's likely proficiency levels and standards across states are going to drastically change, perhaps to be more cohesive, but that won't be determined until the data is available.

"...the report reinforces the need for high standards and rigorous state tests, says Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, a nonprofit education research group. 'If we want students to graduate with the skills and knowledge expected by postsecondary education and employers, states must make sure that 'proficient' means that students are well prepared,' he said, according to NPR.

Read the full article and see how each state compares here. Comment your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

07/10/2015 

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