State's student testing not considered very rigorous

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The report card is out, and Pennsylvania again landed in the middle of the pack in the rigor of its state testing standards.

The National Center for Education Statistics released a report today that shows how proficiency standards for state tests measure up against each other and against the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often known as the Nation's Report Card.

Pennsylvania is not that tough, the report found, and neither are most of the other states, which fall below the center's national benchmark for proficient performance.

The study used a complex formula to compare what it considered proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, with proficiency standards for each state's tests in math and reading in fourth- and eighth-grades.

The goal of the study is to provide a common yardstick in a country where each state designs its own tests and sets its own standards. The implication of the study is that a student considered proficient in one state may not be proficient in another.

"NAEP is uniquely capable of providing comparable state-by-state results, which allows us to understand the relative stringency of state standards," said the center's Commissioner Jack Buckley in a news release. "The study shows that whether a child is considered 'proficient' largely depends on where he or she lives."

On a national basis, the report showed a wide variation among state proficiency standards, and also showed that most states' proficiency standards are at or below NAEP's definition of basic performance, meaning partial mastery of knowledge and skills. The study looked at data from 2008-2009 assessments and from the 2009 NAEP assessment.

In Pennsylvania, the proficiency standard for fourth-grade reading tests was the 15th most rigorous in the country. For fourth-grade math, the standard was 32nd toughest.

For eighth grade tests, the state's proficiency standard for reading was 27th toughest, and for math, it was 18th.

For all four tests, Pennsylvania was considered within the "basic" performance range for the NAEP equivalent. The study found that most state proficiency standards were within the NAEP basic achievement level range, except in fourth-grade reading, where most were below the basic level.

Although the new report showed that Pennsylvania remains in the mid-range for the stringency of its tests, its ranking has dropped in some areas compared to the 2007 and 2005 studies.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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