National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards

Gary Phillips

State achievement standards represent how much the state expects their students to learn in order to reach various levels of academic proficiency. In the past, these achievement standards were used by each state to report adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and are now being used for federal reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

This report uses national benchmarking as a common metric to examine state achievement standards and compare how high these standards are compared to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement levels. The study also benchmarks the achievement standards of Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and ACT Aspire.

Key Findings

  • Smarter Balanced college-ready standards are comparable in difficulty to NAEP Basic levels.
  • Smarter Balanced college-ready standards are significantly below those of PARCC.
  • Smarter Balanced college-ready grade 8 standards are comparable to those of ACT Aspire; however, for grade 4, the Smarter Balanced college-ready standard is significantly below the ACT Aspire college-ready standard for reading, but significantly above for mathematics.
  • PARCC college-ready standards are comparable in difficulty to the NAEP Basic level for English language arts and comparable to NAEP Proficient in mathematics.
  • PARCC college-ready standards are comparable in difficulty to the ACT Aspire college-ready standard for grade 4 reading. However, PARCC standards are significantly above ACT Aspire standards for grade 4 mathematics, and for grade 8 English language arts and mathematics.
  • ACT Aspire college-ready standards are comparable in difficulty to the NAEP Basic levels.