A great deal has been written lately about whether the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement level score of “Basic” is a better target of comparison for state definitions of NCLB “Proficiency” than the NAEP’s own “Proficient” score. In fact, one of our anonymous readers has been asserting that “Basic” represents a better target for states to shoot at with their No Child Left Behind testing.
This graph examines the percentage of eighth grade students in Kentucky who scored at or above NAEP “Basic,” at or above NAEP “Proficient” and at or above the Benchmark scores from the ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE readiness test, now given to all eighth graders in Kentucky.
The ACT designed the EXPLORE benchmark scores to indicate students are on track to have at least a 75 percent chance of earning a “C” and a 50 percent chance of a “B” in the first related college courses at a typical US university. They are based on an empirical study conducted by the ACT several years ago (More on Benchmarks Here).
The data examined in the graph above is primarily from Kentucky’s NAEP and EXPLORE results from the 2006-07 school year. The same cohort of eighth grade students took both the math and reading portions of both assessments in that school year. NAEP last tested science in 2005, so that data is cross-cohort, but it is still of interest.
If a primary goal of our education system is to prepare students for follow-on education (and with more than half of each graduating high school class in Kentucky now going on for more education, this is a suitable goal), then the NAEP “Proficient” score is clearly a much more appropriate gauge of such readiness. In all cases, the NAEP score of “At or Above Basic” indicates far greater accomplishment than the EXPLORE indicates was actually present in Kentucky in the 2006-07 eighth grade cohort.
In fact, even the NAEP science score of “Proficient” notably over-represents real levels of adequate preparation in the subject for follow-on study.
A spreadsheet with more data, including some caveats, is available here.