Not long ago we presented a graphic illustrating the gross discrepancy between Ohio's achievement test scores and those from NAEP. Such "grade inflation" is common in the post-NCLB era, where many states appear to select standards and assessments - not based solely on academic rigor - but in order to ensure that more students are proficient?? and to bump up their state scores.
Unsurprisingly, the recent release of math results from the National Assessment of Education Progress confirms this trend, with 78 percent of Ohio fourth graders passing the state's math test, compared to only 45 percent who passed NAEP. In eighth grade, the gap is even wider, with 71 percent of students passing the Ohio math exam, but just 36 percent passing NAEP.
??ODE vs. NAEP Math Proficiency Averages, 2008-2009
Sources: Ohio Department of Education; National Assessment of Educational Progress in Math, 2009
A spokesperson at the Ohio Department of Education said that "they are different tests with different functions" and that it is understandable for Ohioans to be confused by the dramatic difference in scores. Today's Columbus Dispatch article makes a more compelling case when it says that "it could be that state standards aren't as stringent as those measured by the national exam," and "when a state has lower passage rates on the NAEP, you ???can't really escape a conclusion that low performance on NAEP is a signal that there is a problem in a state that has to be examined very carefully and has to be addressed.'"
Even worse than this year's low pass rates of 45 and 36 percent for fourth and eighth-graders, respectively, is that:
"While Ohio students have a higher average score than students nationwide and those scores are better than they were in the early 1990s, there has been little improvement in the fourth or eighth grades since 2005"
"There has been no significant change in the gap between Ohio's white and black fourth- or eighth-graders for roughly a decade."
We've said it before and we'll say it again: such discrepancies (in Ohio as well as in other states) point to a need for national (common) standards. As Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said at Fordham's conference last week, to have these proficiency gaps "is a huge disservice to students." We'd argue that it's also a huge disservice for all of those parents, educators, and lawmakers trying to make sense out of NAEP test scores and get a straight answer to the question "how are Ohio students really doing?"