Race winners set low standards

Tennessee and Delaware, the first-round Race To The Top winners, set low standards for their students, concludes a new report on state proficiency standards by Paul Peterson and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadón in Education Next.

Tennessee earned an F, as did Alabama and Nebraska.

Based on its own tests and standards, (Tennessee) claimed in 2009 that over 90 percent of its 4th-grade students were proficient in math, whereas NAEP tests revealed that only 28 percent were performing at a proficient level. Results in 4th-grade reading and at the 8th-grade level are much the same. With such divergence, the concept of “standard” has lost all meaning. It’s as if a yardstick can be 36 inches long in most of the world, but 3 inches long in Tennessee.

Delaware earned a grade of C-  for claiming that 77 percent of its 4th-grade students were proficient in math versus 36 percent on NAEP. “In 8th-grade reading, Delaware said 81 percent of its students were proficient, but NAEP put the figure at 31 percent.”

. . . Tennessee earned almost full marks (98 percent) on the section of the competition (weighted a substantial 14 percent of all possible points) devoted to “adopting standards and assessments,” even though its standards have remained extremely low ever since the federal accountability law took hold. The proof will be in the pudding. If Tennessee and Delaware and other states now shift their standards dramatically upward, RttT will win over those who think it is performance, rather than promises, that should be rewarded.

Five states — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington — earned an A for world-class or near-world-class standards. Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont earned a B.

In Ed Next’s blog, Peterson worries that national standards will end up slightly above the C level.

The selection of Tennessee and Delaware was “subjective and arbitrary,” concludes an Economic Policy Institute report, Let’s Do the Numbers.

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