EdWeek blogger: NAEP must get standards right

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Here’s a damning report from Education Week blogger Marc Tucker that rings true in Louisiana as well as many other states: “From the beginning, the leaders of our state education systems have invited testing experts to help them set the cut points for passing or not passing the state tests.  They listen gravely to the advice of the experts, then ask them how many students will fail at the recommended cut point and set a new one at a point that is politically tolerable.”

Tucker writes as the Nation’s Report Card’s governing board sets out to write new proficiency standards. He is president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and he believes that current NAEP standards do not align to real-world college and career readiness. That, he says, must change.

As NAEP considers new criteria for Basic, Proficient, and Advanced levels of performance, he writes, the board should “study the job itself, the way real people do it and then use that information to figure out what sort of education and training they need.”

He suggests that instead of arbitrary cut scores, the standards should be based on “the content and performance requirements for success in the first year of the typical community college.

“I would urge my fellow board members to adopt a policy for reporting to the American people on how many high school students reach that standard at the end of high school and how many students are on a trajectory to reach that standard in elementary and middle school.  I would push NAEP to tell the American people that this benchmark should be used by the states to set a target for what their students should achieve by the end of tenth grade, because that would represent a level of achievement for students of that age comparable to the level achieved by most students in the top-performing countries by that time and there is no reason why we should expect less.

“And lastly, and most importantly, I would tell them that NAEP is the last redoubt, the last remaining hope that the United States will have an instrument that we can use to get an honest measure of how our students are doing.  If we lose that check, if anyone can say whatever they like about how our students are doing, ignorance will not be bliss.”

Click here to read the full Education Week blog post.