New York State of Mind: Education Reform in New York Makes This State Well Ahead of All Others

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

July 13, 2015

By Marianne Lombardo

The National Center for Education Statistics released a report last week comparing state proficiency standards with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scale scores. NAEP frameworks and benchmarks are established by the National Assessment Governing Board and are based on the collaborative input of a wide range of experts and participants in the United States government, education, business, and public sectors.

This excellent infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post maps how each state’s standards align with the rigor of the national assessments:

huffpo infographic st stds

Additionally, we charted change over the years:

marianne nces state std image


  1. Most states set standards equivalent to the “Basic” range in the national assessment. However, 4th grade reading is most often set in the “Below Basic” range.
    • New York is the only state to have standards at a proficient level across all four assessment levels.
    • Wisconsin and North Carolina are next best for having proficient-level standards in two of four assessment levels.
  2. Very slow progress has been made on improving state academic standards.
    • Although a greater number of states are proficient, and fewer states are below basic, the increases and decreases are very small.
  3. Students that move from state to state, including the 2,000,000 military-connected children, continue to have to adjust to vastly different learning standards.

What does this tell us?

Since many states are still in process of implementing Common Core standards, 2013 data may not adequately reflect where states currently are. However, the Common Core backlash threatens efforts to improve and align standards.

An interesting research undertaking would be to examine if students from states with higher standards score better on other types of national assessments – ACT/SAT tests, AP exams, ASVAB (military entrance exam), for example.

And, we need to consider how we’re preparing students for global competitiveness. Gary Phillips, of American Institute for Research, statistically linked state NAEP scores to TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) scores and found that states with higher standards tend to score higher on international assessments. Data from 2007 found:

By combining these two sets of results, we know that even the best-performing American states do not score nearly as high as Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) or Korea, that the average-performing American states are about on par with England, the Russian Federation, and Lithuania, and that the District of Columbia’s performance is more comparable to those of Thailand and Turkey.

High-performing OECD countries nearly all have national standards, a national curriculum, a grade-by-grade curriculum framework, and high-stakes national exams given to students at key gateways, like exiting secondary school. If states are to have the freedom to set their own standards, they must also have the responsibility to set those standards in a way that is honest and fair to their students and prepares them adequately for the economic realities they will face.