Are Kansas Test Scores Inflated?

Under No Child Left Behind, schools are supposed to move all students to “proficient.” But under the law, states have a lot of flexibility in defining what proficient means. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) suggests that some states have been guilty of grade inflation.

Kansas is one of them.

How does the grade inflation work? The NCES compares the results of the NAEP and the results of state tests. The NAEP, otherwise known as the “Nation’s  Report Card,” takes a sample from each state. Thus, it applies one standard across the country. If a state says that 80 percent of its students are proficient, but the NAEP says that only 20 percent are proficient, there’s a problem.

According to NCES numbers from 2005, for the median state,

  • Fourth-grade reading proficiency was 77 percent on state tests–but only 30 percent on the NAEP.
  • Eighth-grade reading proficiency was 72 percent on state tests–but only 28 percent on the NAEP
  • Fourth-grade mathematics proficiency was 74 percent on state tests–but only 38 percent on the NAEP.
  • Eighth-grade mathematics proficiency was 61 percent on state tests–but only 32 percent on the NAEP.

So where did Kansas fit? For the numbers that are available:

Fourth grade math: 85 percent proficient on the state test, but only 47 percent on the NAEP

Eighth grade reading: 78 percent on the state test, but only 35 percent on the NAEP.

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