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ERIC Number: EJ797406
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jun
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0036-6439
Cut Scores, NAEP Achievement Levels and Their Discontents
Bracey, Gerald W.
School Administrator, v65 n6 p20-23 Jun 2008
On virtually all tests these days, there is a score that determines whether a student passes or fails, is proficient or not, or is being educated or left behind. This is the cut score. This author states that, while it might seem cynical, the fairest way to set the cutoff score is to decide in advance how many students a person wants to fail. This approach signals emphatically that the procedure is both arbitrary and political. It might, however, forestall many political and technical difficulties once the test is operational. Students who reach or surpass the cut score are said to meet standards or, more commonly today, be declared "proficient" in the subject. The word proficient implies the use of a truly criterion-referenced test in which certain behaviors define proficiency. The most ambitious attempt to define proficient in terms of what students can or cannot do occurs with the National Assessment of Educational Progress's achievement levels of basic, proficient, and advanced. This attempt is not foolproof--a student at any of the levels will get items right that should be too difficult and get items wrong that should be a cinch. In this article, the author discusses cut scores and NAEP achievement levels. He demonstrates why he believes that adopting NAEP achievement levels would be a disaster, and describes how the NAEP achievement levels of basic, proficient, and advanced came into existence. He also discusses how political bodies are trying to undermine public schools by setting arbitrary passage rates, which are especially apparent on national assessments of student performance.
American Association of School Administrators. 801 North Quincy Street Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22203-1730. Tel: 703-528-0700; Fax: 703-841-1543; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A