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ERIC Number: ED553409
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Sep
Pages: 46
Abstractor: ERIC
International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards
Phillips, Gary W.
American Institutes for Research
This report uses international benchmarking as a common metric to examine and compare what students are expected to learn in some states with what students are expected to learn in other states. The performance standards in each state were compared with the international benchmarks used in two international assessments, and it was assumed that each state's expectations are embodied in the stringency of the performance standards (also called achievement standards) it uses on its own state accountability tests. The international assessments were the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The data were obtained through a statistical linking study tying the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to TIMSS and PIRLS (see Appendix A). The international benchmarking not only provided a mechanism for calibrating the difficulty and gauging the global competitiveness of each state standard but also yielded an international common metric with which to compare state expectations. The overall finding in the study is that there is considerable variance in state performance standards, exposing a large gap in expectations between the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards. Although this gap in expectations is large, many policymakers may not be aware of just how large it is. In general, The difference between the standards in the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards is about 2 standard deviations. In many testing programs, a gap this large represents three to four grade levels. This "expectations gap" is so large that it is more than twice the size of the national black-white "achievement" gap. Closing the achievement gap is important, but so is closing the larger expectation gap. Reducing the expectation gap will require consistently high expectations from "all" states. The report also found that success under No Child Left Behind is largely related to using low performance standards. The states reporting the highest numbers of proficient students have the lowest performance standards. More than two-thirds of the variation in state success reported by No Child Left Behind is related to how high or low the states set their performance standards. These results help explain why the United States does poorly in international comparisons. Many states think they have high standards and are doing well, and feel no urgency to improve because almost all their students are proficient. This may be the main reason why less than 40 percent of 12th grade students are academically prepared for college. Furthermore, over a third of students enrolled in college need remedial help. They thought that they were college ready because they passed their high school graduation test, but they were not. To reduce the expectations gap, this report recommends re-engineering the current standard-setting paradigm used by the states. Appended are: (1) Statistically Linking NAEP to TIMSS and PIRLS; Linking Error Variance; (2) State Proficient Standards Expressed in the Metric of TIMSS or PIRLS; (3) Validity of International Benchmarking; and (4) International Benchmarks for TIMSS and PIRLS.
American Institutes for Research. 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007. Tel: 202-403-5000; Fax: 202-403-5001; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education; Elementary Education; Grade 4; Grade 8; Grade 12
Audience: Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Institutes for Research
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Assessment of Educational Progress; Progress in International Reading Literacy Study; Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study