Washington, D.C. - May 17, 2018 - Achieve today released an update to its Proficient vs. Prepared reports, which shows that while many states have made progress in their transparency about true student proficiency in reading and mathematics, several large "honesty gaps" still remain.
The report compares 2016-17 state test scores with proficiency rates on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and mathematics. The original Proficient vs. Prepared report, which compared 2013-14 state test results with 2013 NAEP scores, showed huge discrepancies in many states; state test scores were painting a falsely rosy picture of student success, when in reality many of those students were not actually proficient. The second edition of the report, comparing 2014-15 state assessment results to 2015 NAEP scores, showed that many states eliminated or significantly narrowed those gaps through the adoption of college- and career-ready assessments and rigorous cut scores, offering a more realistic picture of student readiness.
In this year's report, which compares 2016-17 state results with 2017 NAEP results, Achieve found that with the exception of a few concerning outliers, proficiency gaps have largely held steady from 2015 to 2017. A majority of states have narrow proficiency gaps of 15 percentage points or fewer between state and NAEP proficiency in both 4th grade and 8th grade reading and mathematics, with nearly all states having a narrow gap in at least one grade or content area. However, 13 states still have gaps larger than 20 percentage points in at least one grade or content area, and three states' gaps have widened by 10 or more points between 2015 and 2017.
"While we are encouraged to see that states have, for the most part, held firm in providing a more honest picture of student readiness, there is still work to be done," said Michael Cohen, President of Achieve. "I am particularly pleased that between 2015 and 2017, seven states developed more honest and rigorous definitions of proficiency. Test scores are a valuable signal of academic preparedness for students and their families; it's critical that these signals be accurate and honest representations of student achievement. We encourage state leaders to take further steps toward transparency so that we can move the needle on student outcomes."
Findings from this year's report include:
- Closing the gap: Seven states - Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin - narrowed the proficiency gap in at least one grade or content area by 10 or more points between 2015 and 2017.
- Small to moderate proficiency gaps in most states: In 2017, while gaps increased slightly overall, a large majority of states had gaps of 15 points or fewer in at least one grade or content area.
- 26 states plus DC had gaps of 15 points or fewer in both grades and content areas.
- 48 states plus DC had gaps of 15 points or fewer in a least one grade or content area.
- Large gaps remain in some states: Thirteen states have gaps larger than 20 points in at least one grade or content area. Three states - Iowa, Texas, and Virginia - have gaps of 20 or more points in 4th and 8th grade in both mathematics and reading.
- Some backsliding: Three states - Alaska, Arkansas, and Ohio - widened the proficiency gap in at least one grade or content area by 10 or more points between 2015 and 2017.
NAEP, also known as the "nation's report card," is administered to a representative sample of students from all 50 states every two years. Achieve has used NAEP proficiency as the comparison point against state test results in all editions of its Proficient vs. Prepared report because NAEP is the only assessment with comparable results for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Proficiency on NAEP is defined as "representing 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 appropriate to the subject matter."
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