How Do New NAEP Scores Compare With Smarter Balanced and PARCC?


October 28, 2015

By Marianne Lombardo

Overall, the 2015 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) data released today were disappointing. We’ll be delving into it for weeks, looking for insights along with many of our fellow edu-data nerds. For today, we’ll refer you to some of the good work that’s already been done from our friends at the The Education Trust, The Education Post, and from USC Professor Morgan Polikoff.

Because this year’s NAEP scores came on the heels of the first wave of Common Core-aligned assessments — Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — we decided to match up the results for states with data across those instruments.

Here’s what we found:

  • Smarter Balanced. In every case, except two (8th grade math for Missouri and Vermont), students were more likely to be proficient on SBAC than on the NAEP.
    • There was an average difference of 15 percentage points in 4th grade reading and an average difference of 17 percentage points in 8th grade reading. That’s huge.
    • There was an average difference of 7 percentage points in 4th grade math and an average difference of 4 percentage points in 8th grade math. We’ll call that one moderate difference and one fairly small one.
  • PARCC. Compared to SBAC, PARCC does a better job of aligning to NAEP.
    • PARCC tended to have higher proficiency rates in reading than NAEP did, but by much smaller margins than SBAC did (5 and 11 percentage points, respectively).
    • On math, PARCC tended to have lower proficiency rates (-6 and -3, respectively).

Some talk of an honesty gap in state test scores versus those on NAEP – because in the past, the vast majority of states had higher scores on their own tests than they did on NAEP – or, as the annual “Leaders and Laggards” study calls it, “Truth in Advertising.” We’re not saying that the discrepancies between NAEP and PARCC or Smarter Balanced scores represent dishonesty or untruth. We need to know more about the differences in what each of these assessments actually measure. But they are food for thought.

Below are comprehensive tables laying out how 2015 state consortium assessments and 2015 NAEP results compare, among states that have publicly released their SBAC or PARCC data. Boxes shaded in green represent a 10-point or less discrepancy; boxes shaded in red represent a 20-point or greater discrepancy):

Reading SBAC vs. NAEP

Reading PARCC vs. NAEP






2015 NAEP data:

State Assessment Data: