Take a look at the Georgia Department of Education’s assessment of student performance on this year’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, and you’ll read statements like the following:
“Eighty-eight percent (88%), 88%, and 81% of Georgia’s fourth grade students met or exceeded the standard for Reading, English/Language Arts, and Mathematics, respectively.”
“Ninety-six percent (96%), 93%, and 78% of Georgia’s eighth grade students met or exceeded the standards for Reading, English/Language Arts, and Mathematics, respectively.”
Sounds pretty good, huh? Not great, certainly, but no reason to push the panic button as schools across the state work in the admittedly stressful environment of high-stakes testing engendered by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But wait a minute. It’s important to understand that the CRCTs – administered in reading, English/language arts and math in first through eighth grades, and additionally in science and social studies in third through eighth grades – are the state’s internal measurement of how students are doing on the state curriculum.
So, how do Georgia students stack up against their peers across the country? Well, that’s a dispiriting story. While state officials trumpet impressive-sounding results on Georgia’s CRCTs, the rigor of at least some of those tests, when compared to a national benchmark, is very much in question.
Measured against the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called “nation’s report card,” Georgia’s standards in fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and mathematics are woefully inadequate.
According to a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the federal Department of Education, Georgia’s standard of proficiency for fourth-grade reading is 40 points below the NAEP standard for basic mastery of the subject, and 70 points below the NAEP’s standard for reading proficiency. In fact, Georgia’s proficiency standard for fourth-grade reading is third-lowest in the nation.
The story is much the same for eighth-grade reading, where Georgia’s standard is second-lowest in the nation, 40 points below the NAEP’s basic standard, and almost 80 points below the NAEP’s proficiency standard.
The story is a little better regarding fourth-grade math, where Georgia’s proficiency standard at least matches the NAEP basic standard.
But as far as eighth-grade math is concerned, Georgia’s proficiency standard, third-lowest in the nation, is almost 20 points below the NAEP’s basic standard, and about 50 points below the NAEP’s proficiency standard.
What all this means is that many Georgia fourth- and eighth-graders who pass the state’s CRCTs would fail the NAEP assessments. And what that means, to at least some extent, is that many Georgia students are being cheated in the state’s public-school classrooms. That’s not to say those young people are being shortchanged by their teachers. It is to say, though, that those students, and their parents, and the state’s taxpayers, are being hoodwinked by an education bureaucracy assessing student performance on the basis of artificially low standards.
Certainly, public schools today are beset with a multitude of daunting problems, from lagging state support to disinterested parents to unmotivated students to what is perhaps an unhelpful emphasis on standardized testing.
But even with that, it’s not too much to ask that Georgia’s education officials provide the people of this state with a far better assessment of how their schools measure up to public schools across the nation.