October 29, 2023

Sue Kingery Woltanski: M4L Continues to Post Misleading Information

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Once again, someone is misusing NAEP results to slam schools. No surprise– it’s Moms for Liberty. Sue Kingery Woltanski has the debunking.

Lately, the Moms for Liberty crew has been deflecting from criticism by highlighting the so-called failures of public schools, claiming we are failing to teach students to read. Specifically, they are misusing scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to claim that America’s students cannot do math or reading on grade level.

NAEP “Proficiency” is NOT a measurement of on-grade level performance, but something much higher. This is made clear on NAEP’s own website which states:

“Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).” NAEP “Proficiency” is a bar set well above “grade level.”


If you need more convincing, Tom Loveless, PhD wrote a great piece in Brookings in 2016, entitled The NAEP Proficiency Myth, where he said, “Confounding NAEP proficient with grade-level is uninformed.

It is an unreasonable expectation, one that ill serves America’s students, parents, and teachers–and the effort to improve America’s schools.


Loveless knows what he is talking about. At Brookings, Loveless served as director of the Brown Center on Education Policy from 1999 to 2008. From 2004 to 2012, Loveless represented the United States at the General Assembly of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a sixty-nation organization that governs international testing. From 2006 to 2008, he was a member of the president’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

Loveless wrote:

NAEP proficient is not synonymous with grade level.  NAEP officials urge that proficient not be interpreted as reflecting grade level work.  It is a standard set much higher than that.  Scholarly panels have reviewed the NAEP achievement standards and found them flawed.  The highest scoring nations of the world would appear to be mediocre or poor performers if judged by the NAEP proficient standard.  Even large numbers of U.S. calculus students fall short.”


When Mom for Liberty share this misleading image, they want readers to think that NAEP Proficiency is equivalent to grade level performance and, therefore, America’s schools have failed to teach our 4th grade children to read. They are misusing NAEP data and creating a false narrative.

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