July 9, 2015
Author: Victor Bandeira de Mello
Under the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, states developed their own assessments and set their own proficiency standards to measure student achievement. This has resulted in a great deal of variation among the states, both in their proficiency standards and in their student assessments (NCES 2008-475). This variation has created a challenge in understanding the ability levels of students across the United States because there is no means to compare the proficiency levels established by one state against the others directly. To address this need, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has published periodic reports for the past 10 years in which the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is used as a common metric for examining the proficiency standards set by states in reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8.
This report, the fifth in the series, summarizes the results of applying a methodology for mapping state proficiency standards onto the NAEP scales by using state public school data for the 2012–13 school year and the 2013 NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics for grades 4 and 8. The report also includes analyses of the results using the 2011 NAEP and state assessment data and revised estimates for 2009 reported in NCES 2011-458. The key finding is that the variation among state achievement standards continues to be wide.
• In reading, the difference in NAEP equivalent scores between the states with the highest and lowest proficiency standards is about 76 points on the NAEP 0–500 scale. This difference is about twice the size of the standard deviation on the NAEP national grade 4 reading assessment (37 points) and more than twice the 30-point difference between Basic and Proficient performance levels for NAEP grade 4 reading.
• In mathematics, the range of NAEP equivalent scores from the state with the lowest to the state with the highest proficiency standards is 49 points on the NAEP 0–500 scale, about one and a half times the size of the standard deviation of the NAEP mathematics scores for public school students (30 points) and about one and a half times the 35-point difference between Basic and Proficient performance on NAEP set for grade 4.
• In reading, the difference in NAEP equivalent scores between the states with the highest and lowest proficiency standards is 83 points on the NAEP 0–500 scale. The difference is about twice the size of the standard deviation on the NAEP national grade 8 reading assessments (34 points) and about twice the 38-point difference between Basic and Proficient performance on NAEP set for grade 8.
• In mathematics, the 60-point distance separating the highest and lowest proficiency standards is about one and a half times the size of the standard deviation of the NAEP mathematics scores for public school students (36 points) and one and a half times the 37-point distance between NAEP Basic and Proficient performance set for grade 8 mathematics.
Although the wide variation in standards persists, the number of states with grade 4 reading standards at or above the NAEP Basic level increased from 15 in 2009 and 20 in 2011 to 25 in 2013. Although in 2009 and 2011 no state standard was in the NAEP Proficient range, in 2013 two states had grade 4 reading standards in that range. In mathematics, the number of states with grade 4 standards at or above the NAEP Basic level also increased, from 44 in 2009 to 46 in 2011 and 47 in 2013, with five states having standards in the Proficient range in 2013 compared with one state each in 2009 and 2011. At grade 8, the number of states with reading standards at or above the NAEP Basic level increased from 35 in 2009 and 36 in 2011 to 41 in 2013 (with one state standard in the Proficient range in 2013 compared with none in the previous years). In mathematics, 41 out of the 49 states included in the study had standards above the NAEP Basic level, an increase from 39 both in 2009 and 2011; three of these state standards were also above the Proficient level, compared with one state standard in 2009 and two in 2011.
NCES 2015-046 See the entry in the NCES database for contact and ordering information, and for links to similar topics.
Bandeira de Mello, V. (2015), The mapping methodology and previous results are discussed in detail in two previous reports (NCES 2010-456 and NCES 2011-458), available from NCES State Mapping. Those reports, unlike the present one, focused more on changes in individual state standards over time and corroboration by NAEP of achievement gains reported by states. (NCES 2015-046). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.