My friend Tom Loveless is right about most things, and he’s certainly right that scoring “proficient” on NAEP has nothing to do with being “on grade level.” He’s also right that Campbell Brown missed this point.
But Tom, alas, is quite wrong about the value of NAEP’s trio of “achievement levels” (basic, proficient, advanced). And he’s worse than wrong to get into any sort of defense of “grade level,” as if that concept had any valid meaning or true value for education reform.
In his words, Tom’s post sought “to convince readers of two things: One, proficient on NAEP does not mean grade-level performance. It’s significantly above that. Two, using NAEP’s proficient level as a basis for education policy is a bad idea.”
We agree on the first point, not on the second—and not on his implicit argument that there is merit in basing education policy on “grade-level” thinking.
Unless one is talking about academic standards—Common Core or otherwise—or about the cut scores on high-stakes, end-of-year, criterion-referenced exams like PARCC and Smarter Balanced, “grade level” has no meaning at all. It’s a misnomer that we adopted during decades of using norm-referenced tests. These were “normed” such that the average...