Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bottoming Out

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2006 at 4:16 PM

More good news on Tennessee public schools, this from a new comparative analysis by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Last year we reported that gains in state TCAP scores have to be treated with caution, if not outright skepticism, because they are not matched by gains in the NAEP test administered nationwide. The NAEP, which has been around a long time and stands apart from the whole "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) empire, is the gold standard for looking at state educational performance over time and for comparing states with each other. The problem is that NCLB lets states devise their own proficiency standards, so when a state (like Tennessee) finds itself with proficiency levels on the state test (TCAP) that far surpass proficiency on the national test (NAEP), the natural suspicion is that state standards are weak.

The new analysis by the Hoover folks explores this suspicion. It is not a comparison of student performance or achievement. Rather, it's an effort to assess the rigor of proficiency standards in each state, calculated in a very simple way: How big is the difference between proficiency by a state's students on the state test (TCAP for us) and proficiency on the NAEP? The bigger the gap in the right (or should I say wrong) direction, the weaker the state proficiency standards are assumed to be.

They calculated this for every state with usable data. Tennessee came in dead last, with scores of "F"—worst 10%—for all four analysis categories (4th grade reading, 4th grade math, 8th grade reading, 8th grade math). As one of two states to fail in all categories, Tennessee earned from the study's authors the "cream puff award" for self-reported student proficiency performance that is "much higher than can be justified by the NAEP results."

Here's a graphic showing the top and bottom snippets of the chart from the Hoover analysis. It'll look great in Phil Bredesen's "I'm the education governor" campaign mailer, don't you think?

click to enlarge profchart1.jpg

...

click to enlarge profchart2.jpg

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