Data First

Brought to you by The Center for Public Education

Home > Data Center > How does your school compare to other schools within the state?

National Data

Not applicable

Data Source

The SchoolMatters Web site publishes state test scores at the school and district level for all fifty states.

Summary

Under federal law, all states must assess student progress in reading and math in grades three through eight and at least once during grades ten through twelve. SchoolMatters gathers this test data through a state-by-state survey and then publishes the results on its Web site, SchoolMatters.

How to Use the Data

State test scores are the most reliable way to obtain school-by-school performance data. They also allow schools and districts to compare their performance to other schools and districts in the state.

How the details were measured

All states report results of their reading and math scores as the percent of students scoring at proficient. Some states may report on other subjects. The overall student scores are reported and scores are also broken down by race, income, English language learners, and student disability.

Limitations of the data

State test scores provide a snapshot of student performance, so they may not show how much progress was made over the year. Moreover, the quality of state tests vary widely. Some states have rigorous, high-caliber exams that are tightly aligned to state standards and require students to answer short answer and essay questions. Other states use off-the-shelf, multiple-choice exams that have not been properly aligned with the state’s academic standards.

Key Questions to Ask

What is the performance of student subgroups?

The results of state exams can be broken down to show the scores of students from different economic and racial backgrounds. When examining disaggregated (broken down) data, you should look for gaps between student groups and the overall performance of subgroups. Examining such data is important for understanding the performance of all students within a school or district.

How can we compare our school’s results? Can schools be benchmarked against schools with similar student demographics?

The Education Nation Scorecard for Schools Web site offers some helpful tools that allow you to easily analyze school and district test score data.

Why does student performance on state tests differ from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)?

Under federal law, each state sets its own proficiency level on state exams. While some states grade their students against proficiency standards that are as high as NAEP, others use standards lower than NAEP. More information on comparing state and NAEP assessments is available from the Center for Public Education.

Learn More

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all students are expected to attain proficiency on their state math and reading exams. Each state administers its own exam and sets its own standard for proficiency. These exams are typically only one part of the state assessment program. Many states require additional tests—such as history exams—and graduation exit exams. Since 2008, states must also test students in science at least once in elementary, middle, and high school. The data from these exams are currently not available on the SchoolMatters Web site.

There is one caution to keep in mind when using the SchoolMatters state test score data. The site does not list when the state tests are administered. This is significant, because tests administered in the spring will measure what students accomplished during the school year, while fall tests will examine what students knew when they enrolled in school. For more information on how to examine the results of standardized tests, see the Center for Public Education’s assessment guide.

Additional Resources

Demonstrating success:

Kansas elementary school closes the achievement gap—Faced with a high dropout rate and low student performance, this Kansas City (Kan.) put “first things first” to increase community involvement and make student achievement gains.

Granger high school grapples with the basics—and wins—This once failing high school now offers a bright future to its students thanks to Principal Richard Esparza’s no-nonsense approach to teaching these economically disadvantaged youth, many who arrive well below grade level in all subject areas.