Author of Essay on NAEP Responds to Criticism

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see that the Dec. 14, 2011, issue contained a response by Cornelia Orr, a noted assessment expert who serves as the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, to my earlier Commentary ("NAEP's Odd Definition of Proficiency," October 26, 2011).

Ms. Orr properly corrects me for wrongly identifying a NAGB staff member as a board member. However, the remainder of her letter offers only a weak rebuttal of my main criticisms: NAGB uses the term "proficient" in a way that makes common understanding of the term meaningless. Congress insists that the National Assessment of Educational Progress benchmarks be interpreted with caution and used on a trial basis. NAGB has long needed to externally validate its benchmarks, a point which Ms. Orr essentially concedes.

I am pleased to see that NAEP has planned or mounted 30 studies to address the most recent criticisms.

Ms. Orr claims that I "specifically" said the "proficient level is set too high." I did not say that. She argues that I'm in favor of lowering standards. On the contrary, as a significant contributor to "A Nation at Risk," I have long supported the highest educational standards.

My criticism is that, according to NAGB's own experts, students whom most people would consider proficient in a subject often fail to meet NAEP's definition of proficiency. I worry also that NAEP's contractors run the risk of comparing apples with oranges when they compare the achievement distribution of students in American schools (which enroll all low-income students and all students with disabilities) with achievement distributions in Asian nations and cities (which frequently exclude both demographics).

James J. Harvey
Executive Director
National Superintendents Roundtable
Seattle, Wash.

Vol. 31, Issue 17, Page 26

Published in Print: January 18, 2012, as Author of Essay on NAEP Responds to Criticism
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories