Report Says Common Core Has Raised State Academic Proficiency Standards

As states settle into a Common Core world, education analysts are not only looking to see if the standards impact individual student performance but if the standards raise overall academic expectations. According to a new report from Education Next, the answer is yes. In an analysis of state proficiency standards as compared to the NAEP, the researchers found that 45 states have raised their standards since 2011 with 36 states strengthening them from 2013-15. The researchers conclude that the implementation of CCCS has an influence on raising expectations since most states showing improvement have adopted CCSS or similar college- and career-readiness standards.

“It is a hopeful sign that proficiency standards have moved in the right direction,” says report co-author Harvard University Professor Paul E. Peterson in a statement. “If student performance shifts upward in tandem with the rise in expectations, it will signal a long-awaited enhancement in the quality of American schools.”

Key state data

  • The average difference between the proportion of students achieving proficiency on NAEP and state tests decreased from 30 percentage points to 10 percentage points nationwide, which the authors describe as “a dramatic improvement over the previous two-year period (2011-13), in which the difference dropped only from 35 to 30 percent.”
  • Twenty-four states receive a grade of “A,” indicating that they have set a proficiency bar that is roughly comparable to that set by NAEP: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont. In 2013, nine states earned an “A,” but only New York, Pennsylvania and Utah remained in this elite group in 2015.
  • Four states slipped in their proficiency standards ranking: Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. Massachusetts received a ranking of B plus, lower than its previous A ranking, but this ranking is not definitive, as it is based on information from only one of the two tests that districts were allowed to administer.

Although the trend in proficiency expectations is compelling, the report’s authors are clear that this does not “reflect high student performance. Rather, good grades suggest that states are setting a high proficiency bar—that students must perform at a high level to be deemed proficient in a given subject at their grade level.”

Read “After Common Core, States Set Rigorous Standards,” by Paul E. Peterson, Samuel Barrows and Thomas Gift, Education Next (SUMMER 2016 / VOL. 16, NO. 3)

Education Policy
Educational Standards