How does NAEP Map State Proficiency Standards?

The 2015 Report on State Proficiency Standards is about to be released! Since 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has published periodic reports that show where each state’s standard for proficient performance in reading and math at grades 4 and 8 falls on the NAEP scale. Because all states participate in NAEP for these grades and subjects, it is possible to benchmark states’ proficiency standards with the NAEP achievement levels and across states over time.

The forthcoming sixth edition, formally called Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Results From the 2015 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Assessments, used state public school results from the 2014–15 school year and 2015 NAEP assessment results.

2015 State Mapping Coming Soon Infocard

To prepare for the upcoming release, here are a few points to know for the 2015 report:

  • The report provides a snapshot of how state proficiency standards have changed over the past decade. Because findings from the 2015 report can be compared back to data from the 2004-05 school year, it will provide key insights on changes we have seen in the rigor of states’ definitions of proficiency over time.
  • The study is a measure of standards, not of student performance. NAEP scores of the state’s student populations would be a better measure of achievement across states than where states set their bar for proficiency. To explore national, state, and district results from the Nation’s Report Card, please visit
  • For the first time, the study benchmarked the standards for proficient performance set by testing programs that assess student achievement using college and career readiness standards. This report includes proficiency standards for ACT Aspire (ACT), Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
  • The study does not evaluate state assessments or the quality of their achievement standards. Standards may vary for different test programs because they have different purposes. States may construct their standards to define minimum competency, to determine promotion to the next grade, or to address other purposes. NAEP standards, by contrast, indicate what students should know and be able to do and are the goal of all students being proficient is generally considered to be aspirational.

Overall, the 2015 Report on State Proficiency Standards is meant to allow policymakers and researchers to compare state performance standards. The study does not link individual student performance on the state test to NAEP, nor does it report on individual student scores.

Results from the 2015 study will be published on May 31. For now, review results from the 2013 study here.

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