Victor Bandeira de Mello, Charles Blankenship, and Don McLaughlin
National Center for Education Statistics
October 2009

Newsflash: Many states have lowered the proficiency bar in response to NCLB. Faithful Gadfly readers already knew this, of course, since we published a report on this very topic two years ago (and another one earlier this year). The difference this time around, however, is that the messenger is the federal government itself. NCES analysts mapped state proficiency standards in 48 states onto the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scales. The result? “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…” To top it off, most states’ fourth grade reading standards were below NAEP’s basic level of performance. Readers might find the stats-speak hard to parse, but NCES does an excellent job of presenting the data. User-friendly tables lay out precisely (i.e., by naming them) which states lowered their proficiency standards between 2005 and 2007; the data are separated by which states have comparable results (i.e., because they kept the same tests) and those that do not (i.e., they changed their standards/tests/testing policies). Interestingly, nearly half of states changed aspects of their test or assessment system over that two year period. But when each version of these states’ tests was mapped onto the NAEP scale, results revealed that a third to a half of states (depending on subject and grade) had lowered their previous standards. Yikes. You can find the report here.

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