Nationwide, student achievement is ticking upward thanks to the implementation of more rigorous academic standards. By the 2015-16 school year, students in the majority of states were taught to the Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, or similarly rigorous state standards for at least three years. And higher expectations seem to be paying off—across all 50 states, more students are meeting stronger state learning standards.
These advances, however, have not come easy. In part due to politically charged sentiment against the CCSS, parents in pockets around the country began to opt their students out of the aligned tests in the 2014-15 school year. In response, states worked to improve their testing practices by shortening or eliminating tests and limiting test preparation. States also improved their communication around the purpose and usefulness of these tests, which are required by law to monitor student progress and identify gaps in achievement.
Participation in annual tests has since increased, particularly in locations where the opt-out movement had gained popularity. Achievement has also gone up; not only are more students taking annual tests, but they are also doing better compared with the 2014-15 school year.
In 2015-16, the percentage of students who met grade-level standards increased in reading and math in most states. According to a state-by-state review by the Center for American Progress, 34 states increased their overall proficiency from 2014-15, with three other states showing consistent results. Only two states, Indiana and Iowa, saw overall decreases, but both states used tests that were not aligned to their standards during this period, and Indiana also replaced its standards. Twelve states were either unable to report or were unable to compare results due to testing glitches, cancellations, or changes in assessment.