A new report issued by the national education reform organization Achieve suggests that a gap present between results on state and national tests show that states are misinforming the public concerning student proficiency in language arts and math.
The report, Proficient vs. Prepared: Disparities Between State Tests and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, calls that gap the "honesty gap," and asks that the public and legislators demand for higher accountability measures concerning how student performance is measured in each state.
"Parents deserve to know the truth," said Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success which supported the "Proficient vs. Prepared" study.
However, Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, argues that the national NAEP standards for proficiency are not clearly defined and they should not be used as benchmarks for every student.
"The authors may be correct that some states have set a low bar for determining âproficiency,' " he said in an email. "But comparing arbitrary state definitions of that term with the equally flawed NAEP proficiency levels does not support their argument."
Although four levels of proficiency are used by the NAEP, only the top two, proficient and advanced, are used for the study. The "basic" level was not included, although many consider it to be an acceptable level of proficiency.
"Too many states are not leveling with students or parents. They're being told students are proficient, but by external benchmarks they're not prepared at all," said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, the education reform group that conducted the survey. Cohen added that improvements are expected with the new tests.
Achieve aided the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in the development of the federal Common Core standards, which state what children should know at the end of each grade level pertaining to math and English.
The NAEP exams, more commonly referred to as the Nation's Report Card, test a small sampling of fourth and eighth-graders in select campuses in each state, comparing the results to a national "yardstick" that measures student progress. However, each state must test all of their students, including those with disabilities and limited command of the English language, writes Neal Morton for The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The report found that across the nation, over half of all states yielded a 30-point discrepancy between proficiency rates reported and those that the NAEP exam discovered. Meanwhile, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas each held a discrepancy of over 40 points for both fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.