What is the Honesty Gap?

The data below was collected from Achieve’s State Proficiency vs. NAEP Data.

Today’s economy demands that all young people develop high-level literacy, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills, all grounded in a rigorous and content-rich K-12 curriculum. Acquiring these skills ensures that high school graduates are academically prepared to pursue the future of their choosing.

Historically, many states have misled the public about whether students are proficient. Parents, students, and teachers deserve transparency and accuracy in public reporting.

Frequently, states’ testing and reporting processes have yielded significantly different results than the data collected and reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The discrepancy between NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card, and a state’s claim is what can be described as an “honesty gap.”

And, while NAEP scores are the gold standard for measuring student achievement and serve as a yardstick for state comparisons, NAEP results are from samples of students and individual results are not shared with students and their families who rely on state test results to know how they are performing.


The Honesty Gap has significantly narrowed in nearly half the states since August 2015 as states have become more transparent. In the past year, 18 states demonstrated an improvement of at least 10 percentage points by closing The Honesty Gap in both 4th Grade reading and 8th Grade math since 2013 (the last time NAEP was administered).

The number of states in which The Honesty Gap is narrow has nearly tripled since 2015. Achieve’s analysis from May 2015 identified only six states in which The Honesty Gap was 15 percentage points or smaller in both 4th Grade reading and 8th Grade math. Today, that number has nearly tripled to 17 states. 

The Honesty Gap remains very large in only a handful of states, meaning they are misleading parents about student proficiency. Just four states continue to dramatically mislead the public about student proficiency rates, down from 18 states last year.

What is proficiency?
NAEP defines proficiency as “solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills approximate to the subject matter.”

Check out a video on NAEP 101:

Nation’s Report Card

Honesty Gap by State

The data below was collected from Achieve’s State Proficiency vs. NAEP Data.

Click here to see state by state data.


Proficient vs. Prepared




If you are interested in more data, please read the full Achieve report, available here. More detailed information about each state can be found here.

Note: All score differences are calculated based on differences between unrounded average scores.hg_tables