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ERIC Number: EJ894651
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jan
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 8
ISSN: ISSN-1529-8957
It's Elementary, er, Basic, Dr. Watson
Bracey, Gerald W.
Principal Leadership, v10 n5 p72-75 Jan 2010
The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) has stated that "the overall achievement goal for American students is performance that qualifies at the Proficient level or higher" (Loomis & Bourke, 2001, p. 2). The Institute for Educational Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education went even further, "The Proficient level (the minimal goal for all students) represents solid academic achievement" (as cited in Scott & Ingels, 2007, p. v). Only once has NAGB or NAEP tried to argue that basic, the level below proficient, means something. In 2005, John H. Stevens (as cited in Viadero & Olson, 2005), then the chairman of NAGB's reporting and dissemination committee, said, "We're trying to draw attention to Basic as an achievement level with some value. We think it's been devalued and even interpreted as, perhaps, failing in the past." For this, he got his head handed to him and soon retreated back to the private sector in his home state of Texas. However, as noted in the author's initial article on this topic published in the September 2005 issue of "Principal Leadership," many studies have found the NAEP achievement levels to be "fundamentally flawed." But even if they were fundamentally sound, it would be hard to know how students score at the various levels function later in life because no student takes the whole NAEP test. NAEP's approach is to cover a wide range of topics in the subjects it assesses. No individual student ever takes more than a fraction of the total items. Enough students take each item to generate a reliable estimate of the item's difficulty, but no score is attached to an individual student. Therefore, there is no way to determine any down-the-road, long-term outcomes for students who score at different levels. But that determination could be made if NAEP results were linked to some other test that does provide individual results. Such a comparison was accomplished in a 2007 study by Leslie Scott, from the American Institutes for Research, and Steven Ingels, from the Research Triangle Institute. They mapped data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, 1988 (NELS:88) onto the NAEP scale. The students in the study scored on average toward the low end of the basic interval. Thirty-seven percent scored below basic, 48% at basic, 13% proficient, and 2% advanced. In this article, a closer look at the definition of the basic level in use from 1990-2003 compared with statistical evidence revealed in several additional studies add further support to the author's long-argued contention that the goal of 100% proficient is untenable and unrealistic.
National Association of Secondary School Principals. 1904 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1537. Tel: 800-253-7746; Tel: 703-860-0200; Fax: 703-620-6534; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Grade 12; Grade 4; Grade 8
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Texas
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Assessment of Educational Progress