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Federal education study finds that Texas' proficiency standards lag in math, reading

Remember, as Jerry Bracey so often pointed out, the NAEP proficiency standards stand in disrepute with just about everybody--except people trying to disparage state testing systems. Bracey said, "The standards have generally been the object of scorn and derision from the psychometric community."
See channeling Jerry Bracey by Sherman Dorn.

By Terrence StutzDallas Morning News

AUSTIN ΓΆ€“ Texas is one of several states that have set a low bar for determining whether their students are proficient in math and reading, according to a new study from the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics.

The report, released Thursday, found wide variations among the states in where they set proficiency standards for fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and math.

Comparisons of results on state achievement tests and a national exam given every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders showed that benchmarks for proficiency on most state tests are far below those of the federal exam, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In Texas and 30 other states, the cutoff score on the state exam for a fourth-grader to be deemed proficient in reading ΓΆ€“ a higher level of achievement ΓΆ€“ is actually less than the cutoff score for "basic" performance, the minimum passing level, on the national test.

Texas was one of 15 states with a proficiency standard on its eighth-grade reading test that was lower than the basic performance standard on the national exam.

In math, Texas was not among the handful of states that had similar weak standards for determining student proficiency, but it was still in the bottom half of the rankings of the states in the report.

Among the states with the most rigorous standards were Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri and South Carolina. Tennessee had the worst standards.

"This study gives policymakers, educators and parents a way to view state proficiency standards using a common yardstick," said John Q. Easton of the Institute of Education Sciences, which oversaw the study.

"It shows that a student seen as proficient in one state might not be seen as proficient in another."

The study, based on 2007 scores, carries special significance because the National Assessment of Educational Progress ΓΆ€“ also called the "Nation's Report Card" exam ΓΆ€“ is the only test given to public school students in all states.

Required under the No Child Left Behind Act, it is administered every two years to a scientifically selected sample of fourth- and eighth-graders.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, noted that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills ΓΆ€“ used in the federal study ΓΆ€“ "was built to reflect our curriculum rather than the NAEP." She also pointed out that Texas math tests are largely in line with the skills measured by the national exam.

Regarding the different standards for reading, she said, "There is much more disagreement about how to teach reading and how to test reading. Nonetheless, Texas has taken several significant steps recently to beef up reading proficiency."

Among those are new curriculum standards for reading and more rigorous state tests.

— Terrence Stutz
Dallas Morning News


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