- In an interview with Dan Hamlin who, with Paul E. Petersen, analyzed the status and effect of 2017 proficiency standards in each state, District Administration reports that state proficiency standards vary greatly when compared to one another and to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, causing the bar to be set higher in some states than others.
- While Common Core standards were created to provide more consistent benchmarks for students, the negative reaction to the standards caused many states to reject or adapt the standards; however, many states also reacted to the standards by dramatically raising their proficiency bars, making them more closely aligned to NAEP levels.
- Despite this, thus far there appears to be no correlation between higher standards and improvements in student achievement as measured by test scores.
This recent analysis of the 2017 proficiency standards and test data published by Education Next adds another dimension to the testing dilemma with its finding that higher proficiency standards do not equate to a rise in test scores. Schools need some way to measure student achievement and, in this data-driven age, the acquisition of numbers to define success seems more important than ever. However, the very act of testing and teaching in such a manner as to impact the test may not be producing the desired academic effects.
The 2017 NAEP scores brought this into focus as students registered almost no growth in math and reading scores despite the introduction of Common Core standards, increased levels of proficiency, and a higher level of funding directed toward achievement in those areas. Some educators feel the blame lies in the need for more specifics and detailed curriculum that will help teachers address the standards. Others feel that the NAEP proficiency benchmarks themselves are misleading. And other studies point out that higher test scores don’t necessarily indicate better cognition skills at all.
The crux of the matter lies in how educators, policymakers, and families ultimately define success. Student test scores do not always correlate with adult accomplishments, a fact that is causing some schools to adopt an Expeditionary Learning (EL) model or similar approach that measures character development and quality of student work in addition to test results.
Schools are also defined by more than test scores. As Regie Routman, the author of "Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success" commented in an Education Week article, “Enduring achievement gains require not only applying content and concepts worth knowing, but also ensuring that learning is occurring in a healthy, thriving culture as well. School leaders — including principals, teachers, and district superintendents — are the key players in creating such an environment. In fact, the quality of a school's culture is a prime indicator in determining whether all learners will experience success.”