Today, Achieve, a national education advocacy nonprofit, released an analysis comparing proficiency rates in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math as reported by states to the same data measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Discrepancies were found between the percentage of students reported as proficient by states and the number of students who met national proficiency benchmarks.
NAEP defines proficiency as “solid academic performance” for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills approximate to the subject matter. Frequently, states’ testing and reporting processes yield different results than the data collected and reported by the NAEP, which is administered uniformly across the nation and assess what students know and can do in various subject areas. And NAEP results are generally not known by students and their families.
Georgia is among the states with the largest gaps between their reported 2013-14 state proficiency levels and their state’s 2013 NAEP proficiency levels.
As a resident, native Georgian and president of the National PTA, which represents more than 74 million children in the United States as well as American children abroad attending schools within the Department of Defense education system, it is of high importance to have an accurate assessment of how well our children are developing the skills they need to succeed. Accurate metrics provide much-needed information about how students are performing, help teachers guide instruction to better meet the needs of students as well as provide opportunities for early intervention when they fall behind.
In my role as president of National PTA, I have heard from families of students who have arrived on college campuses or in the workplace requiring remediation to get them up to speed, which can be costly. It is essential to ensure that all students adequately prepared to move onto more challenging material so that families do not end up paying for remedial courses.
As underscored by the analysis, the implementation of more rigorous standards and high quality tests that are consistent and comparable across states is critical to accurately assess student learning and ensure all students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce. It also is essential that families have honest information about how their students are progressing.
Many states are working hard to address the discrepancies found in the analysis by raising standards and expectations in math and English; employing new, higher quality tests that truly measure student competency and can be compared across school districts and states; and setting new levels of proficiency that are more demanding and aligned with what students need to know to be successful after high school.
Each state faces unique challenges in implementing new standards and assessments, but it is important not to back away from efforts to raise the bar for all children and ensure they are prepared with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and reach their full potential.
For more information about the analysis and to view state specific data, visit http://www.honestygap.org.
Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.