What’s Proficient?

February 20, 2002 1 min read

As the chart below shows, what’s “good enough” to qualify as “proficient” may vary widely from state to state. Education Week compared the percent of students who scored at or above proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and on state assessments in mathematics in 2000. Only the 25 states that participated in the state-level NAEP in 2000, tested students in math in the 4th or 8th grade that year, and reported test results by proficiency levels were included in the analysis. In every state, the percent of students performing at the proficient level on state tests was used, except where the state employs a different, but similar, term. See also the accompanying “What’s Proficient” chart for 4th Grade Math.

The footnotes below refer to states that do not use the actual label “proficient” to describe performance levels:

1= State performance level defined as percent of students “at or above statewide goals/standards,” percent of students who “meet or exceed state standards,” or percent of students “achieving the standards.”
2= State performance level defined as students performing at the “satisfactory” level on the state test.
3= Rhode Island and Vermont assess math performance in three separate areas- math concepts, math skills, and problem-solving. In both states, student performance in the math-skills standard is significantly higher than performance on NAEP, while student performance in concepts and problem-solving is roughly comparable. The percent of students meeting or exceeding the standard in math concepts is presented in the bar chart.
4= For Texas, the percent of students who “mastered all objectives” on the state test is compared with the proficient level on NAEP. In 4th and 8th grade math, respectively, 87 percent and 90 percent of students “met minimum expectations,” which is the threshold for passing the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS).
5= Virginia results are presented in terms of the percent of students passing the Standards of Learning (SOL) math exams.

SOURCE: Original data analysis conducted by Education Week Research Director Kathryn M. Doherty and Research Associate Ronald A. Skinner

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A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as What’s Proficient?