University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

2012-13 Benchmark, EOC, and ITBS Score Database Release: Scores Level Off

In The View from the OEP on August 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

With the first days of school just a few days away for many, we wanted to look back at the last year to see how Arkansas students performed on the annual Benchmark, EOC, and ITBS exams.  You can access this information about your district or school by clicking here.

As we show in our latest policy brief, Arkansas K-12 education experienced a leveling off or small drop across most tests in the 2012-13 school year, with a few exceptions.  Benchmark scores declined slightly in both literacy and math across the state and in each region.  Likewise, both EOC math tests (Algebra and Geometry) also experienced a small drop from their previously high scores.  For the other two EOC tests (Literacy and Biology), the trend of growth continued by two percentage points each.  ITBS percentile rankings dropped slightly for math and overall scores but remained at the same performance level in reading and language.


Why did Arkansas experience this “Great Moderation” in test scores?  We can approach this question as a classic case of “Whodunnit?”  We have two potential suspects: ceiling effects OR the Common Core transition.

A ceiling effect is exactly what it sounds like: when scores reach high levels, growth from that point on becomes difficult and close to impossible.  While Arkansas scores have not reached the ceiling of 100% proficient or advanced on these tests, they have come to their own version of a glass ceiling, which is a level below 100% but still a difficult level for the state to pass, given the current education environment.  While this cannot be verified, ceiling effects may well have played a role in our mystery.

On the other hand, we have the suspect of the Common Core transition.  The case here is that students from grades K-8 are being taught by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but tested by the old Arkansas state standards.  While these standards have some similarities, to the degree that they do not match the testing system becomes less applicable.  One detail that points to this suspect is the continued growth of Biology and 11th Grade Literacy EOC scores, which were still using the old system of standards and assessments.  The OEP will comment on this suspect at a later date.

Finally, we look outside of our state to see if we can find any help on our mystery.  In recent education news, New York State recently released their test scores that were based on the CCSS and aligned assessments, which are generally considered to be more rigorous.   New York saw a large drop in the number of students labeled proficient or advanced. This year, only 31 percent of students passed the reading and math exams in contrast to 55 percent in reading and 65 percent in math the previous year. These lower test scores were not necessarily a drop in knowledge or test taking ability of the students but rather a movement to a higher standard (think of a pee-wee football player moving up to the NCAA).


When New York State released these test scores, it was not a case of steep drop in performance, but rather a new level of “honesty” as to how New York students stack up against the competition in our global marketplace.  This idea of the new accountability is covered here.

Arkansas’ test scores are different from New York State; Arkansas is not using the new testing system.  However, in both cases, it is important to seek out the right suspects as to why our state’s scores might not meet our prior expectations. Be on the look out in the near future for a new policy brief  that digs more into the changes in 2012-13 test scores.

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