- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon set average to below-average standards for how well its elementary and middle school students should read and do math, a new study says.

Neighboring Washington asked its students and schools to hit a higher bar on its reading and math tests for 2013, the year examined in the study. Washington set grade-level expectations far higher than Oregon did, particularly for fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math, the study said.

The National Center for Education Statistics report, released late Wednesday, looked at the difficulty level of all 50 states’ standardized tests.

Nearly all states, including Oregon, have stopped using those old tests and standards since 2013. They replaced them with the more demanding Common Core State Standards and harder tests that match those standards.

But the fact that Oregon schools aimed at such a modest bar for many years helps explain why many of the state’s educators have described switching to the Common Core as such a strain.

A few states, including New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts, already were giving tests in 2013 roughly as difficult as those linked the Common Core, the report said.

Oregon, Washington and 16 other states are using the Smarter Balanced tests to measure if students are meeting the new academic demands. Washington students did significantly better on the new exams than Oregon students did, according to preliminary results released last week.

In the study, researchers compared schools’ performance on tests developed in each state against their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given in a sampling of schools in every state. That allowed researchers to measure, on a uniform scale, how much students had to know in reading and in math to pass each state’s test.

The study’s main conclusion? States were all over the map when deciding what represented grade-level mastery of reading and math in grade four and grade eight.

Georgia had the lowest standards; New York the highest. The difference between what it took to pass state reading and math tests in the Peach State versus the Empire State were gigantic — roughly twice as large as the difference between showing merely basic skills and showing proficiency, in the eyes of national test-makers.

Oregon’s minimum skill requirements to pass its state tests were roughly in the middle of the pack nationally. They were particularly low for fourth-grade reading, even though Oregon raised the score needed to pass that test in 2012, the study said. On the flip side, the difficulty level of Oregon’s eighth-grade reading test was above the national average.

Washington’s standards were substantially above the U.S. average in all but fourth-grade reading, where they were modestly above-average.

In a recent analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive, former Washington schools chief Terry Bergeson said Washington’s high academic standards were a primary reason why Washington students read and do math better than Oregon’s, even though the states spend about the same per student.

The study is another point of confirmation that Washington’s standards truly were a significant cut above Oregon’s. Students also had more skin in the game in Washington because, unlike in Oregon, students had to pass the state reading and writing tests to earn a diploma.

In Oregon, to get a diploma, students who fail state tests can complete a reading, writing or math exercise graded by the teachers at their school as proof they have the necessary skills to graduate.

It doesn’t matter going forward how different states’ standards were on their state tests in 2013. Almost all states have since switched to new standards and new exams.

For students in Oregon and 17 other states, the proficiency standards on end-of-year reading and math tests will be exactly the same, because they are all using the same tests: Smarter Balanced.

When it comes to deciding what it takes to earn a diploma, however, states still can and will go their own way.

Oregon plans to decide later this year what scores in reading and math will be sufficient to earn a diploma. These new passing grades are expected to be substantially lower than the nationwide proficiency levels that Oregon and the other states agreed to earlier this year.


Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide