California Makes Progress towards Closing the “Honesty Gap”

Following Implementation of New Assessments, California Takes Modest Steps to More Accurately Report Student Readiness; Should Stay the Course towards Honest Information

california_2015_graphCalifornia reported student proficiency rates close to those found by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), but disparities remain, according to a newly released follow-up analysis by Achieve, an independent education advocacy organization.

Following the implementation of Smarter Balance assessments, California reported scores that exceed NAEP by 11 percentage points in fourth-grade reading and 6 percentage points in eighth-grade math in 2015. California piloted the Smarter Balanced assessment in 2014 and did not report state-level proficiency rates that year so no comparison is available.

Click here to view the state’s previous results.

A Look Back: Last May, Achieve released an analysis that identified discrepancies in student proficiency rates reported by state tests and those found on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “the Nation’s Report Card.” The analysis – deemed the “Honesty Gap” – found more than half of all states demonstrated a 30 percentage point or more differential between proficiency rates calculated by state tests and NAEP. That meant states were not being straightforward with parents and educators about students’ preparedness for high levels of learning, and ultimately for college and careers—often with serious consequences.

Prioritizing Accurate Information and Transparency: For the first time this year, most states administered tests aligned to rigorous academic expectations. As a result, most began reporting proficiency results that more closely reflect the rates identified by NAEP. The Collaborative for Student Success identified Massachusetts, New York, and Utah as “Most Honest” for significantly closing the Honesty Gap and reporting proficiency rates nearly identical to or even more rigorous than NAEP.

Additionally, 26 states are recognized as “Significantly Improved” for closing their Honesty Gaps by at least 10 percentage points in either fourth-grade reading or eighth-grade math. Twenty-four states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Idaho,  Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, earned the status of “Top Truth Teller in 2015” for having Honesty Gaps of fewer than 5 percentage points in one or both subjects.

California’s Ups and Downs: In 2010, California adopted college- and career-ready standards in English language arts and math. Last spring, California administered Smarter Balanced assessments, which measure students against challenging academic expectations. As a result, California’s latest student test results reflect proficiency rates close to those identified by NAEP, indicating parents and teachers are now getting more accurate information about their children’s readiness. But gaps still remain, and policymakers should continue to tighten the state’s definition of proficiency. By doing so, they will provide parents and teachers with honest information about how well prepared their child is to move onto higher level material based on college- and career-ready standards.

For more information read more: What is the Honesty Gap?

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