Arkansas Test Score Scam of 2009


Scores Improve on all Arkansas "Homegrown" Benchmark Tests;  BUT on nationally Normed Test, Arkansas Scores as Low as 35 percent. Sixty-five percent of Students Across The Nation Do Better Than Arkansas Third Graders in Language, Etc.


Once more, as is done every year about this time, the Arkansas Department of Education and the media are touting the successful K-12 scores in Arkansas.  As usual when the government control  is involved, the truth is twisted into propaganda.


It is true that students in Arkansas keep improving on one measure, the benchmark tests designed, controlled, and with scoring percentages set by the state.  But on all other measures compared  with students across the nation Arkansas falls far short.  See bulleted list below in red font. 


Note that on these Arkansas math benchmark tests, students in 8th grade only have to get 28  points correct out of 80 points to be Proficient (Proficient is equivalent to a B or in ADE terminology indicates students have met standards); Grade 7 - 27 pts out of 80; Grade 6 - 40 out of 80; Grade 5 - 34 out of 80, Grade 4 -  40 out of 80, Grade 3 - 35 out of 80.  No wonder their scores are so high! The tests are graded on the curve; ADE sets the curve and it changes from year to year.  (There are no scores for state designed benchmark benchmark tests for grades 1,2 & 9  listed here because there re no state designed benchmark tests for them.  NCLB doesn't require it.) The categories are Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.  See this link for these scores:


(Note that the points correct on these Arkansas Benchmark tests to score Proficient have been lowered significantly over the years.  In 8th grade math in 2004 students had to score 47 points out of 80 to make Proficient; in 2005 only 39 and this year 28. Other cut off raw scores were also lowered significantly in every grade from 2005 until now.)


In addition to such low scores required on the Arkansas Benchmark Tests,  in many districts teachers' lesson plan books are monitored and their classes observed to make sure  they are teaching every day the released items from former state annual tests.  Teachers are now being instructed to teach nothing else but the test sample questions or the  released test items.  In other words the Test Released Items Booklet becomes the entire curriculum. Then teachers are required to give several practice tests at regular intervals in preparation for the annual Benchmark Test.   See this link for memos instructing teachers to teach only released test items.  See this link to download the Released Items Booklets for all grades.


Anyone who studies the facts and compares the Arkansas benchmark scores to any national  measure can see that the so called educational improvement in Arkansas is just a scam. For example, the gap between Arkansas benchmark test scores and the nationally normed test  scores (the test that compares our students to other students across the nation) is staggering.  The scores in half the grades tested are more than 20% lower than the percentage on the Arkansas benchmark tests. This is the second second  year for this particular nationally normed test, and scores for last year were very similar and showed no significant improvement even though the Arkansas Benchmark test scores keep going up and up.


First note how low the language score is for the nationally normed test (SAT 10) comparing our students to the rest of the nation.  How could anyone possibly think Arkansas has had any success when we have scores like the following in any area?  In 3rd grade for example, 65% of the students tested across the nation scored better than 3rd graders in Arkansas; 66% scored better than 4th grade, etc.   This is the 2nd year for this test, and again the scores were almost the same last year.  And these scores are the result of more than doubling educational spending in Arkansas from $1.4 billion in 1996 to $4 billion in 2004-05 (federal, state, and local spending) which equals at least a 3% sales tax increases  in Arkansas.


2009 Scores on Nationally Normed Language Tests (SAT 10)

 (comparing our students to other students across the nation)

See this link for these scores:

   3rd grade - 35%  

It doesn't appear that all that money spent on pre-school has helped the scores, does it?         

4th grade - 34%

  (In 1988 the language score for 4th grade  on nationally normed test was 65%

5th Grade - 43%

6th Grade - 45%

7th Grade - 48% 

(In 1988 the language score for 7th grade on natioanlly normed test was 61%)

8th Grade - 43%

9th Grade - 48%


* All the scores in 1988 were similarly higher than 2009,  but these are the only two grades in elementary school where all students were required to take the test as they are now so these grades, are  the only ones that can be compared that far back.  See this link for a pdf file of the ADE document with the scores in red font above.


See this link to see how high our nationally standardized tests have been in the past in  table form.  This table  includes all nationally normed test scores from 1988 to 1995 for the grades that Arkansas used for accountability, 4, 7, & 10.  In the fourth grade in 1988  on the nationally normed test, every score was above 60 %, and dropped down to 50% in 1995 after the state took over education and started teaching to the tests..


Note that language and reading are incorporated into one score called  the Literacy score, on the Arkansas State Benchmark Test.   If the Language scores above were averaged in with the Reading Score on  the Stanford Achievement nationally normed test below,  reading scores  would be even lower and the gap wider between the nationally normed Stanford Achievement  Test (SAT10) Reading scores and the Arkansas State Benchmark Test Literacy Scores.


Reading Scores (1,2 & 9 don't take Benchmark Tests so no comparison for them)

Year 2009

Stanford Achievement Test (SAT10)  Reading Scores (comparing students nationwide)

Arkansas State Benchmark  Test   Literacy Scores

Gap between scores - percent point lower on nationally normed test (SAT10) that compares students to rest of nation.

Grade 3



23% pts lower on nationally normed test

Grade 4



9 pts lower on nationally normed

Grade 5



15 pts lower on nationally normed test

Grade 6



23% pts lower on nationally normed test

Grade 7



10% pts lower on nationally normed test

Grade 8



21% pts lower on nationally normed test.

Note:  The gap between the math test scores  on nationally normed tests (the one that compares students nationally) is not as wide as on reading, but 3rd grade nationally normed score is still 23 percentage points lower than State Benchmark test score; 4th grade 10 percentage points lower, 5th grade 11 percentage points lower,  6th grade, 14 percentage points lower, 7th grade, 12 percentage points lower, Grade 8 had 5 points higher on state test.

The following facts were gathered in 2007 but facts are still the same except for a point or two here or there.  Again these are the results of increased educational expenditures that would equal a 3% sales tax increase in Arkansas.

·         Only nine states scored lower than Arkansas on the ACT test in 2007.  Arkansas dropped slightly in 2007, but the national average improved. (The ACT test is the culmination of K-12 instruction and is used by colleges all over the nation to award scholarships.)

·         The graduation rate dropped slightly more than 10% in one year according to the last educational report in Arkansas (2005-2006) the next report won't be available for a few more months. 4

·        College Remediation Rate is 51.6% (46.6% in 1995); National Average is 33% 5  

·         Only Nine States Scored Lower Than Arkansas in 8th Grade Math on NAEP Test; only sixteen states scored lower than Arkansas on the 4th Grade Reading NAEP Test, etc. in 2005.  Other scores were similar.   In 2007 our scores were even lower.  Arkansas Department of Education Director said , "We have slipped a bit in terms of state rankings in all areas, save mathematics at the fourth grade." 6

·         Only 28% of AR students pass test on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, while 59.4% pass nationwide 7

·         Test Scores on nationally normed tests  are 11 Percentile Points lower in 2006 than in 1990 (a 22% decrease) (Later scores are not available yet)  8

·         In its latest State of State Standards in 2006, Fordham Foundation gave Arkansas an F on its Math Standards, F on U S. History Standards, an F on World History Standards, a D in Science and a C in English for an average of F.  9  

·         The National Report Card on Higher Ed. gave Arkansas a  D+ in High School Preparation for College in 06 in its latest report.  10

·         Educational Reforms Have Cost $1.4 BILLION since 2003, which equals about a 3% sales tax increase in Arkansas. 11

The Education Week’s Quality Counts 2008 report itself indicates that Arkansas earned a D in K-12 on student achievement

 See this link for documentation and footnotes on these statistics.

The following paragraph about Kentucky sums up what is happening in Arkansas. 

In 1993 US Education Secretary Richard Riley called Kentucky a lighthouse for the rest of the nation and said President Clinton's Goals 2000 would help states duplicate what Kentucky has done and is doing. [Herald Leader, 1993 by Lucy May.] Kentucky has shown great improvement on their state tests over the years.  However, note that five  testing experts from five universities said Kentucky  had been "misinforming, misleading, exaggerating and overstating student achievement." 


 Also, in 1994 in Jefferson County, the largest school district in the state, parents demanded that their children be tested for national comparison. (For four years, the students had been tested only with the KIRIS test developed by Kentucky)  The national tests revealed that Kentucky students' comparative scores, after four years of Kentucky's state test, had declined from an average of 7 percent below the national average to an average of 27 percent below that standard in reading and math across all grade levels in which the tests were given – second, sixth and ninth grades.  In no area had scores improved on the nationally normed test.  ("Test-score drop was worse than reported" by Beverly Bartlett in the Courier-Journal, 1995 and  "Tests:  State, national levels are different" in the  Herald Leader by Lucy May 4/28/95)   See this link for this entire article on Kentucky:


Debbie Pelley, Retired Arkansas Teacher of 27 years -

Iris Stevens, Retired Arkansas Teacher of 31 years who retired early.  Perhaps you can guess why.


This article can be found on line at and can be commented on this blog:

Other testing articles that show the "other side of the story"


Link to :   "Money Wasted on Misguided Educational Reforms, Why Scores Are Lower Now Than When Accountability System Was Started"

Did We Win Olympic Medal on NAEP Scores or Did We Bomb Them - You Decide

See this lnk for "Real Truth Behind Those Low 4th Grade Benchmark 2005 Test Scores (only 33% earned achievement score of BASIC)

See this Link for Why did ADE Commissioner James Spins Low Test Scores

        See this link for Why Test Scores Are Lower in Arkansas  Now Than in 1984

        See this link for Arkansas Department of  Education Presents Deceptive Scores (03)

        ADE Director Ray Simon Gives False Information About Test Scores

See this link for "Testing System Corrupted, No Correlation Among NAEP, IBS, and Benchmark Tests



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