Standards, Testing & Accountability

As Amy indicates, the latest findings from the just-released National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report contain few surprises, especially since we're well-versed in the differences between states' definitions of proficiency and proficiency as mapped onto a common scale (see here and here).

This NCES report maps state proficiency standards onto NAEP scales and concludes that:

All NAEP scale equivalents of states' reading standards were below NAEP's Proficient range; and in mathematics, only two states' NAEP scale equivalents were in the NAEP Proficient range (Massachusetts in grades 4 and 8, and South Carolina in grade 8). In many cases, the NAEP scale equivalent for a state's standards, especially in grade 4 reading, mapped below the NAEP achievement level for Basic performance.

Yikes. Dig into the report and you'll find several tables that show which states have lowered and raised their proficiency standards between 2005 and 2007. The data are rightly separated into those states that have results that can be compared (e.g., because they have the same tests in place) and those that cannot (e.g., they changed their standards/tests/testing policies). Of those states with comparable data, we see that New Jersey's...

Amy Fagan

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is out with a new report today that looks at state achievement levels using the common yardstick of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Not great news. According to the AP story:

It found that many states deemed children to be proficient or on grade level when they would rate below basic or lacking even partial mastery of reading and math under the NAEP standards.

From the Ed Week story:

Their results suggest that 26 states, between 2005 and 2007, made their standards less rigorous in one or more grade levels or subjects.

Our Amber Winkler shared her thoughts on the matter with both Education Week and the Christian Science Monitor.

Might I just point out that the Fordham Institute actually did a very similar report back in 2007 - the Proficiency Illusion. That report used a Northwest Evaluation Association test as a common yardstick. It too found that "proficiency" varied wildly from state to state, with "passing scores" ranging from the 6th percentile to the 77th.

Fordham went even...

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...
Eric Ulas

Ohio's school district rating system has been getting criticism lately, and for good reason: the category of Continuous Improvement (a "C" rating) is so broad that it is nearly meaningless.

The graph below illustrates how many indicators were met by 79 school districts receiving a "C" on the 2008-09 state report card. Districts can meet up to 30 indicators, which are based on achievement test scores, graduation and attendance rates.

Number of performance indicators met by Ohio districts with a "C" rating, 2008-2009

Source: Ohio Department of Education

While nearly a fifth of "C" districts met barely any indicators (0-8), another four percent met nearly all of their performance indicators yet still received the same letter grade.

Confused? So are a lot of people. ??

Kettering City Schools met 29 out of 30 performance indicators while Marion City Schools met zero indicators, yet both received a "C" from the state. The reason for Kettering's low grade, as Emmy describes, is that they failed to make AYP with English language learners and special education students. Without this AYP provision in Ohio's rating system, Kettering would...

Eric Ulas

Video is now available from our recent event, World-Class Academic Standards for Ohio, which was held October 5 in Columbus, Ohio.

What do state and national experts make of the "Common Core" standards effort??? How can states go about crafting top-flight standards??? How will the Buckeye State respond to the Common Core effort and a recent legislative mandate to upgrade its standards? ??Click on the links below to find out.

Opening Speaker:

Why World-Class Standards?

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Panel Sessions:

Current Efforts to Create National (???Common???) Standards

Michael Cohen, Achieve Inc.

Gene Wilhoit, Council of Chief State School Officers

Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute, moderator

Highlighting the Efforts of Top Performing States??

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Stan Jones, former Indiana Commissioner...

Eric Ulas

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is a charter-school authorizer in our home state of Ohio and we currently oversee six schools in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield.??In the Buckeye State, academic performance of schools is gauged by both student proficiency rates and progress (using a "value-added " measure).??Schools are expected to help students make one year or more of academic progress annually and are given a value-added ranking of "below," "met," or "above" corresponding with how much growth their students made. We're proud of the academic progress our schools made last year compared to their district and charter peers. The following chart shows the percent of students in schools by "value-added" rating for Fordham-authorized schools, the home districts in which they are located, and charter schools in the state's eight major urban areas.

Percent of Students in Fordham-authorized Schools, Home Districts, and "Big 8" Charter Schools by Value-Added Rating, 2008-09

Source: Ohio Department of Education interactive Local Report Card...

The Education Gadfly

The Fordham Institute's newest report???-Stars By Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009--reviews the ???Common Core??? draft standards in math and reading/writing/communications (these drafts were made public on September 21). Our subject-content experts confer ???B??? grades on these drafts; the effort is off to a good start! Are there things to improve? You betcha. As for other influential barometers and benchmarks of educational performance, our reviews also examine the reading/writing and math frameworks behind NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA. Check out the report to find out which ones shine brightly and which ones are dull.

Eric Ulas

If you need evidence for national--or "common"--standards, look no further than the wide variation in the definition of "proficient" across the country today.?? These charts, from Fordham's 2007 The Proficiency Illusion illustrate the difference in the difficulty of state achievement tests based on their "cut scores."




A student deemed proficient in reading or math by the state of Colorado wouldn't come close to making the cut in Massachusetts, California, or South Carolina. Unfortunately, proficient young Buckeyes wouldn't fare much better than their Centennial State peers.


We will be exploring the issue of national standards and their impact on states at our conference, World-Class Academic Standards for Ohio, on Monday, October 5.?? Video of the event will be available on Flypaper next week.




The Education Gadfly

Check out this week's Ohio Education Gadfly to read about our upcoming conference, "World-Class Standards in Ohio." We're excited to welcome an impressive lineup of education experts and state leaders, who will discuss Ohio-specific standards issues (timely, since the state is mandated to revise its academic standards by 2010) as well as examine high-performing states and the national ("common") standards movement. Terry is spot on when he says "Ohio, and indeed the country, is at a pivotal moment in the development of standards-based education."

Next, Jamie brings us an informative piece exploring education tax credits (and deductions) and their potential to raise (private) money for education in Ohio. Given Ohio's gaping budget hole, might Ohioans consider this vehicle for school choice?

Also featured in the Ohio Education Gadfly is a video by Mike and Eric in which Ohio Rep. Lynn Wachtmann discusses the current crisis facing Ohio's pension systems. Finally, it wraps up with Flypaper's Finest, and timely recommended readings from Eric, Kalli, and Emmy....

Eric Ulas

Inspired by the "Graph of the Week" offered up by our friends at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio , we'll be rolling out regular graphics on Flypaper to illustrate interesting trends and facts about public education, especially as they relate to Fordham's home state of Ohio. Today's chart highlights the disparity in student achievement depending on what measure is being used and who is doing the reporting (for more, check out The Accountability Illusion ).

Grade Inflation - Ohio Achievement Test (OAT) vs. NAEP Results,


According to the Ohio Achievement Tests, 73 percent of Buckeye State eighth graders and 75 percent of fourth graders are proficient in math.?? But according to the "gold standard" National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 35 and 46 percent of students are proficient respectively.?? The same is true in reading.

The??disparity in this data??clearly??shows the??need for??better aligned assessment measures....