Education's Wrong Turn.

Author:Meiser, Rhenda
Position:BY THE BOOK - Academic performance
 
FREE EXCERPT

THE VAST MAJORITY of students in most countries cannot demonstrate proficiency as defined by one of the U.S.'s most-common educational tests. The authors of the analysis suggest the U.S. has established benchmarks that are neither useful nor credible.

In its report, "How High the Bar?," the National Superintendents Round-table and Horace Mann League linked the performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science to the proficiency benchmarks of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the U.S.'s longest continuing assessment of students. They also examined major assessments related to Common Core.

* In no nation do a majority of students meet the NAEP proficient benchmark in fourth-grade reading.

* Just three nations have 50% or more of their students meeting the proficient benchmark in eighth-grade math (Singapore, Republic of Korea, and Japan).

* Only one nation has 50% or more of its students meeting the proficient benchmark in eighth-grade science (Singapore).

"Many criticize public schools because only about one-third of our students are deemed to be 'proficient' on NAEP assessments but, even in Singapore--always highly successful on international assessments--just 39% of fourth-graders clear NAEP's proficiency benchmark," says James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable.

Citing the U.S. Department of Education's own records, the report criticizes the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, for misusing the term "proficient." The term does not mean what many assume it to mean: performing at grade level, nor does it mean proficient as most people understand the term, according to Department officials. "Misuse of the term has confused the public and defeated the valuable purpose of assessment, which is to gain useful insights into school performance," maintains Jack McKay, director of the Horace Mann League.

Far from failing, the U.S. ranked fifth among the world's 40 largest and wealthiest nations in fourth-grade reading at the NAEP proficient benchmark. Singapore, the Russian...

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