by David Wojick
Loyal Baconeers know what the so-called “Honesty Gap” is, as we have been discussing it at length. It is heavily featured in a recent report from the Virginia Department of Education. The gap itself is the big difference between the numerical thresholds of “proficiency” used by Virginia versus the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for certain test regimes. NAEP’s threshold is much higher than Virginia’s (and most other States).
The gap has nothing to do with honesty, just language. Virginia has two tiers of passing scores: “proficient” and “advanced.” NAEP has three: “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced.” What Virginia calls proficient aligns closely to what NAEP calls basic. Comparing Virginia students’ SOL pass rates at the proficient level with their NAEP pass rates at the proficient level is likening apples to oranges.
So, where does "honesty” come in? This is where the story gets interesting, and in my view unpleasant. It turns out that “honesty gap” is hyperbolic rhetoric, spawned by an advocacy group.
The Honesty Gap ( HonestyGap.org
) is a project of the Collaborative for Student Success, which is funded by a number of prominent left-wing foundations. The project home page immediately hits you with this grandiose pronouncement:
“Parents deserve the truth. Historically, states have exaggerated the percent of students who are proficient – as demonstrated by the huge gaps that have existed between state NAEP scores and what states report as their proficiency rate.”
This is truly dishonest. There is nothing untruthful, inaccurate or exaggerated in the proficiency ratings of Virginia and the other states. If anything, NAEP is using an extreme definition of proficient. Switching to a three-tier system would provide a bit more information, but how about five tiers, or twenty? The point is there is nothing dishonest about the Virginia system. Calling this an “honesty gap” is a hoax. If anything, Virginia’s threshold is more accurate.