Valerie Strauss has a fascinating column about the scoring of the Smarter Balanced assessment. It appears that the achievement levels mirror the levels on NAEP. Understanding the scoring process is not easy. Apparently only the students in the top two levels will be considered “college-ready,” as befits a very rigorous curriculum. This means that less than half of the 11th grade students will be on track to go to college. In terms of mathematics, only one-third will be college-ready. The scoring ends with the rather ominous statement that Smarter Balance has not yet figured out a scoring guide for “career readiness.” Since there is so little in the Common Core that is related to career readiness, this is understandable. Very likely, the students who are involved in career and technical education will be in the lower bands and won’t be eligible to go to college.


I served on the NAEP governing board for seven years. NAEP Proficient is not grade level. It represents a very high level of achievement; in my view, NAEP proficient is an A or A-. To expect almost all students to reach NAEP Proficient is totally unrealistic. The only state in the nation where as much as 50% of students have reached NAEP Proficient is Massachusetts. The achievement levels were set in 1992 and are periodically revised. They are set by panels of judges who make estimates about what students should know and be able to do; they are arbitrary. Many scholars have contested their validity, as well as the validity of the standard-setting method, over the years.


If NAEP Proficient is used by PARCC and Smarter Balanced as a standard for graduation, most of our students will not graduate high school.


At some point, someone will have to admit that the Common Core and the tests are so “rigorous” that the students who succeed are being prepared for elite universities, not for state universities, and not for career readiness.