Study Shows More Discrepancies Between State, National Assessments of Student Proficiency

Monday, April 16, 2007

In September, The Washington Post reported on renewed calls for national education standards after studies had shown that student proficiency rates on state tests -- a key measure of grade-level achievement -- were far higher than proficiency rates on the respected National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card.

University of California researchers released more data last week on state test results seemingly out of whack with the national assessment, as Congress shows some signs of addressing the issue. The California report found test score inflation particularly pronounced in reading, where the gap between state and national test results has grown in 10 of 12 states studied since the 2002 enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In their study, released at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago, the California researchers said Texas reported 82 percent of its fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2006, although the federal estimate for that state was 29 percent. In New Jersey, the state said 80 percent of students were proficient in reading in 2006; federal data put the figure at 38 percent.

"State leaders are under enormous pressure to show that students are making progress," said study leader Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. "So they are finding inventive ways of showing higher test scores."

Officials in several states say they are moving toward more rigorous benchmarks established by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) has introduced a bill that would establish voluntary national standards and tests.

-- Jay Mathews

© 2007 The Washington Post Company