Education Policy Center at AIR Releases an Issue Brief Calling for Rigorous Student Performance Standards

Washington, D.C. – The Education Policy Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has released an issue brief citing the need for state policymakers to consider setting rigorous student performance standards to measure academic success and not focus primarily on content standards for teaching materials.

As the debate over Common Core State Standards intensifies, Aiming High: Setting Performance Standards for Student Success notes that, “Although the movement to adopt rigorous education content standards is evidence that states are motivated to raise academic expectations, current performance standards do not give accurate measures of student achievement. Without rigorous content and performance standards, we cannot adequately prepare students for the global marketplace.”

The issue brief cites a 2014 AIR study, International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards, which found that state performance standards vary widely, with many of them set low. Students in states with the lowest standards performed three to four grades levels below their peers in states with higher standards.

“If states adopt rigorous content standards but retain low performance standards, the number of students identified as “proficient” will give a false picture of the nation’s progress toward educational excellence in the global marketplace,” says the new brief written by Gary Phillips, an AIR vice president Institute Fellow, and Alicia Garcia, a senior researcher.

“States should use evidence-based methods of standard setting, such as the benchmark method, to create and adopt rigorous performance standards that prepare students to compete in the global marketplace,” the authors said.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications