States Raise the Bar for Reading and Math Proficiency

August 21, 2019 AT 8:42 AM

By Lauren Camera

Nearly every state in the U.S. has raised the bar over the last decade for what it considers grade-level achievement in math and reading, according to a new study from the National Center on Education Statistics.

Because each state sets its own standards for what proficiency in a subject means, researchers at the center developed a formula that could compare each state's bar for proficiency on state assessment tests to the one used in the NCES-administered National Assessment of Education Progress. Using that score as a baseline, researchers were able to compare states to each other.

The National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as NAEP or the Nation's Report Card, tests fourth and eighth graders in the U.S. every two years in math and reading and is the only uniformly administered exams in every state.

The center's report found that over the last decade states are setting higher standards for what counts as proficient in both subjects, and the difference between the states with the highest and lowest bars for proficiency is narrowing.

"States that were identified as having lower standards increased their expectations for students over the previous decade," Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessments at the center, said Tuesday during a press call. "We are seeing a large decrease in the number that have set their standards below NAEP basic."

In reading, most states included in the study had standards for proficiency that met or were higher than NAEP's basic level. Two states in fourth grade reading – Massachusetts and Utah – and five states in eighth grade reading – Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Wisconsin – set their proficiency standards at NAEP's level of proficiency.

Similarly in math, most states included in the study had standards for proficiency that met or were higher than NAEP's basic level. A total of 11 states in fourth grade and seven in eighth grade set their proficiency standards at NAEP's level of proficiency.

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