Gap still persists between Ohio reading scores and NAEP, proficiency still flat

Eric Ulas

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) publicly released its 2009 reading scores today, and there will likely be little fanfare in Ohio over the results. The NAEP is a biennial test administered to fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders by the U.S. Department of Education and is frequently billed as “the Nation’s Report Card.” We noted in a previous Ohio Gadfly article that the Buckeye State’s NAEP math results remained stagnant throughout the past decade, and today’s results continue that trend in reading.

The 2009 NAEP scores for Ohio students are virtually the same as in previous years. In 2009, 36 percent of fourth graders and 37 percent of eighth graders were considered proficient or better in reading, compared to 36 percent of both fourth and eighth graders earning a proficient rating in 2007.  The graph below illustrates Ohio’s lackluster performance on the NAEP over the past 10 years.


As we also previously noted, Ohio’s own measure of student proficiency (the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT) appears drastically inflated in comparison to the NAEP. According to 2009 OAT results, 72 percent of eighth graders and 82 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in reading. The graph below highlights the performance gap of Ohio students between NAEP and OAT results.


This gap certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, as The Columbus Dispatch covered this disconnect between state test scores and the NAEP in September 2009. The Fordham Institute also highlighted the differences in the bar that states set for proficiency in the Feburary 2009 report The Accountability Illusion. 

Both the stalled achievement in reading according to NAEP scores, and the discrepancy between OAT and NAEP proficiency results continue to highlight the need for the adoption of strong common standards nationally. Higher academic content standards will raise expectations – and presumably achievement—for Buckeye students, and common core standards would enable better comparisons across states.

Many states are moving in this direction. Common Core standards in K-12 English-language arts and math were recently released in draft form. So far they’ve gotten mostly positive reviews, with several states seeking approval for adoption sometime this year. Kentucky wasted no time and voted to approve the standards, acting on a late-stage draft before the public release.

As noted in the article above, common standards alone won’t raise achievement. They must be matched by aligned assessments that can reliably measure students’ mastery of the standards, and educators, parents, and others must do their part, too.

But one thing is for sure – too few Ohio fourth and eighth graders are scoring proficient in reading, and this hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Adopting rigorous common standards is one strategy among a set of reforms necessary to boost student achievement in the Buckeye State.

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