Report: Standards Vary Widely Among States

Achievement standards vary widely from state to state, despite the promise of greater uniformity that helped to usher in the Common Core State Standards, according to a new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

The Report, "National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards," looked at "achievement standards for college and career readiness in English and math in grades 4 and 8 for three groups aligned with the Common Core — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and ACT Aspire — as well as standards in states unaffiliated with these groups," according to a news release.

Among the groups, only PARCC had standards for both grades that were equivalent to proficient as defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and only for math standards. Among the unaffiliated states only Florida had standards as stringent as the NAEP's for both grades and in both subjects.

"Prior to the advent of the Common Core, I used to say that 50 states going in 50 different directions is not a strategy for national success in a globally competitive world," said Gary Phillips, the report's author and an AIR vice president and fellow, in a prepared statement. "We may not be going in 50 different directions anymore, but we do not have enough states setting high college-ready standards."

Key findings of the report include:

  • The Smarter Balanced college-ready standards are comparable with NAEP's basic levels and are significantly lower — by about one quarter of a standard deviation — than PARCC's college-ready standards;
  • The college-ready standards from Smarter Balanced for grade 8 are comparable to those of ACT Aspire. When comparing the standards for grade 4, however, the Smarter Balanced English standards are significantly lower and the math standards are significantly higher;
  • PARCC's college-ready math standards are comparable to NAEP's basic level for English and proficient level for math;
  • College-ready standards for grade 4 English are comparable between PARCC and ACT Aspire. PARCC's standards, however, are significantly higher than those of ACT Aspire for grade 4 math and both math and English for grade 8; and
  • ACT Aspire's college-ready standards are comparable to NAEP's basic levels.

Among unaffiliated states only a few had standards that equated to NAEP proficient levels and none, aside from Florida, were comparable across both grades and subjects. They include New York in all but grade 4 math, Kansas in all but grade 4 English and Alaska and Pennsylvania in grade 8 math.

The full report is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

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