Reading Proficiency Standards

Yesterday we looked at the number of students who fall short of meeting Iowa’s fourth grade reading proficiency standards.  Knowing what to make of proficiency statistics is difficult because “proficient” is not used consistently.

In Iowa, proficient means good enough and good enough means, more or less,* achieving a national percentile rank of 41 or higher on the ITBS.

Here’s another way to put those standards in context using the NAEP exam (which is useful because the NAEP allows you to look at test questions so you can see what specific questions students could or could not answer).

For fourth grade reading, the NAEP proficient level is set at a score of 238.  It is my understanding that students who score proficient or higher are on track to be prepared for college level work.  It is also important to know that ten points on the NAEP score is equivalent to about one grade level of learning.

Courtesy of Matthew Ladner at Jay P. Greene’s Blog, we can see that Iowa’s proficient standard for fourth grade reading maps to a score of 199 on the NAEP.

This tells us that on the fourth grade reading assessment, student performance is good enough for Iowa if they are as far as about four grade levels below on track to be prepared for college level work.  In other words, the Iowa fourth grade students who are not proficient, are more than four grade levels behind students who are on track to be prepared for college level work.

*It is a bit more complicated than that now because scores on the new Iowa Assessments had to be aligned with the scores that would have earned a 41st percentile performance for the national sample from the 2000 ITBS/ITED exams.  If you want the technical details click on the Proficiency Tab above for Iowa achievement level standards or on the NAEP Tab for NAEP achievement level standards.