Most states don’t match federal proficiency standards for elementary math and reading, a new federal report concludes.
Eight states have raised standards in recent years. South Carolina has lowered its standards, though the new superintendent pledges to raise the bar.
The National Center for Education Statistics compares state requirements to the National Assessment of Education Progress.
In fourth-grade reading, for example, 35 states set passing bars that are below the “basic” level on the national NAEP exam. “Basic” means students have a satisfactory understanding of material, as opposed to “proficient,” which means they have a solid grasp of it. Massachusetts is the only state to set its bar at “proficient”—and that was only in fourth- and eighth-grade math.
The report shows huge disparities among the standards states set when their tests are converted to the NAEP’s 500-point scale. In eighth-grade reading, for example, there is a 60-point difference between Texas, which has the lowest passing bar, and Missouri, which has the highest, according to the data. In eighth-grade math, there is a 71-point spread between the low, Tennessee, and the high, Massachusetts.
A Tennessee eighth grader could be considered proficient without being able to read a graph, while a Massachusetts student meeting the proficiency benchmark “would likely be able to solve a math problem using algebra and geometry.”