Who's Proficient Now?

According to preliminary test results for the 2005–06 school year, more Ohio students are reaching “proficiency” on state exams than ever before. So schools are doing a better job, right?
 
Wrong. Though state test scores are up, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s report card, are flat. Two Education Next editors argue that the discrepancy raises questions about whether Ohio’s test has gotten easier over the past two years. In 2003, the state earned a “C+” based on the gap between state and NAEP averages of proficient students. By 2005, that grade dropped to a “C”; Ohio was one of only six states to have lost ground. 
 
Another study by Kevin Carey of Education Sector looks at how states get away with reporting wildly optimistic data across a range of indicators. Consider Wisconsin, which declares that 99.8 percent of its districts met Average Yearly Progress(AYP) goals for 2004–05. Ohio earned 24th place (out of 50 states and D.C.) on the report’s “Pangloss Index,” which ranks brazen optimists from top to bottom. While Ohio is not among the worst offenders, these two reports together suggest that the state’s standards might be slipping—and during a time when many state leaders are calling for more rigor (via the Ohio Core Curriculum), not less. Come August, when the state’s school and district report cards become public, parents and school leaders should be pleased by higher scores—but also wary that the gains are not all they seem to be.   

Keeping an Eye on State Standards: A Race to the Bottom?” by Paul E. Peterson and Frederick M. Hess, Education Next, Summer 2006.

 
Education Sector, May 2006.
 
Columbus Improves Its Scores on Tests,” by Jennifer Smith Richards, The Columbus Dispatch, June 10, 2006.
 
Valley Loses Top, Bottom Spots on Grad Test Results,” by Scott Elliot, The Dayton Daily News, June 10, 2006.
 
Read a full review of Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB here.

 

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