Iowa Falls Short of Closing the “Honesty Gap”

Iowa Earns “Honesty Challenged” Status for Continuing to Inflate Proficiency Rates, Giving Parents and Teachers an Inaccurate Measure of Student Readiness

iowa_2015_graphIowa continued to report student proficiency rates significantly above those found by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), according to a newly released follow-up analysis by Achieve, an independent education advocacy organization.

Iowa receives the “Honesty Challenged” designation for reporting state proficiency rates that exceed NAEP by 39 percentage points in fourth-grade reading and 40 percentage points in eighth-grade math.

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.

If Iowa were to graduate all high school students fully prepared for college the state would save about $62 million in remediation costs and lost earnings. Nationally, developmental education costs students and taxpayers about $7 billion each year.

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.

Iowa’s Lack of Progress: In 2010, Iowa adopted college- and career-ready standards in English language arts and math. This spring, Iowa administered Next Generation Iowa Assessments (NGIA), which reported proficiency rates well in excess of those recognized by NAEP. While states officials should be applauded for adopting rigorous academic expectations, policymakers should 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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