OUR OPINION: Take care not to reopen Honesty Gap
Great news: Fewer North Dakota students were deemed "proficient" in math and English in 2015 than in earlier years. You read that right. Yes, it's true that the 2015 tests ranked a much lower percentage of North Dakota students as "proficient" th...
Great news: Fewer North Dakota students were deemed "proficient" in math and English in 2015 than in earlier years.
You read that right. Yes, it's true that the 2015 tests ranked a much lower percentage of North Dakota students as "proficient" than previous assessments had done.
And it's also true that in a very real way, this was good news.
That's because the test scores on the state assessments at last closed the Honesty Gap - the gap between North Dakota's earlier Lake Wobegon, all-is-well assessments and the students' scores on the Nation's Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
"As late as 2013, North Dakota was reporting that 75 percent of its fourth graders were 'proficient' in reading, whereas a national assessment put the number at 35 percent," a Herald column reported in 2015.
"That was an enormous Honesty Gap."
But as Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota's state superintendent of public instruction, explains in her Q&A on this page, the Smarter Balanced assessments that the state started using last year got results much closer to those of the gold-standard NAEP tests.
"We are much more on par with what the National Assessment of Educational Progress ... has been saying for a long time," Baesler reports.
"Our '41 percent proficient' for mathematics and '46 percent proficient' for reading is pretty much aligned with what NAEP has been telling us for the past decade."
Two points: First, thanks in part to the Common Core's promotion of more rigorous testing nationwide, North Dakota is not alone in closing this gap. "More than half the states have made their tests more difficult to pass, bringing proficiency rates more closely into line with the those of the rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress," Education Week reported in January.
Second, North Dakota now must take great care not to warp its newly accurate mirror into a funhouse variety again. For that's the danger as the state prepares to revamp its standards as well as its assessments in 2017.
To her credit, Baesler is keenly aware of that risk and determined to avoid it."Our national benchmark will continue to be the NAEP results," she says in the Q&A.
"It is the only assessment that all of the states give to a statistically sound sample of students."
North Dakotans should join Baesler in making sure we keep the Honesty Gap closed.
- Tom Dennis for the Herald