Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009
The variance between states’ proficiency cut scores has been reported ad nauseum over the past half-decade (we ourselves have weighed in on this issue more than once). Stepping into this clogged space is this NCES mapping study, which compares 2009 state and NAEP proficiency standards for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. (NCES did similar comparisons in 2009 and 2007.) The overall numbers remain sobering—in 2008-09, no state set its proficiency rate for fourth- or eighth-grade reading any higher than the “basic” level of the NAEP; only one state—Massachusetts—set its grade four and eight math proficiency rates at this level. Further, fully thirty-five states’ cut scores were set at “below basic” NAEP standards in 2009. Yet there are some positives to report. The majority of states that made changes to their testing systems between 2007 and 2009 actually moved to more rigorous proficiency standards: In reading, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia all dramatically upped their cut scores. In math, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia did so. And those states that saw a slackening in standards rigor (like South Carolina) were probably right to do so—they had cut scores upwards of forty-five points above the national average in some cases. As states move toward implementation of the Common Core standards, policymakers should take note of this (albeit slow) leveling of proficiency cut scores.
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Victor Bandeira de Mello, Charles Blankenship, and Don McLaughlin, “Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009,” (Washington, D.C.:, August 2011).
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