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NAEP gives NC proficiency standards high scores

North Carolina is doing a great job with its proficiency standards, at least according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

A recent NAEP mapping study found that NC’s proficiency standards on end-of-grade tests are some of the highest — and thus, most challenging — in the nation. 

“North Carolina has set high expectations for our students,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson in a press release. “We know that today’s competitive economy requires more in order for our students to be well-prepared for success. The challenge before us is to ensure that our schools are equipped and staffed to help students reach these goals.”

The mapping study is done periodically by NAEP to compare state proficiency standards with those it sets in 4th-8th grade reading and math standards.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”

Proficiency standards represent the state’s expectations for how well students should do during testing in order to be considered proficient, said Tammy Howard, Director of Accountability Operations for the Department of Public Instruction.

According to NAEP’s findings, only Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York have higher 4th grade proficiency standards for reading. 

Only New York, Massachusetts and Texas have higher 4th grade math proficiency standards. 

Only Wisconsin and New York have higher 8th grade reading proficiency standards. 

And only New York beats us in 8th grade math standards. 

Eric Guckian, senior education advisor to Governor Pat McCrory, said that the state should be commended for its high proficiency standards. But he cautions that we must remember there is more work to be done, particularly with 4th grade reading.

“While our standards might be as high as those other three states, my pretty clear understanding is our students’ attainment of reaching those standards is still not where we want it to be,” he said.

He cited the statistic that 65 percent of NC students are not meeting the NAEP benchmark for reading by the time they reach 4th grade — meaning they’re not at grade level. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.