Proficient Readers: Dear Strong American Schools

Sent to and

This appears to be the Broad/Gates effort to make education an issue in the 2008 election.

Note to huffingtonpost blog readers: In case the attachments get stripped, "a test everyone will fail" is at my site as in another blog explaining what's wrong with the NAEP achievement levels,

Dear Strong American Schools,

Did you know that only 33% of Swedish 4th graders are proficient in reading? (We don't have data on 8th graders). Twenty-nine percent of American 4th graders are not proficient. But Sweden is the highest scoring country in the world in reading and we are not far behind. It is the NAEP achievement levels that are failing, not the kids.

Did you know that only one or two countries in the entire world have a majority of students proficient in science? My estimate is only Singapore, 51%. A more rigorous study by former National Center for Educaton Statistics acting director Gary Phillips also finds Taiwan in that category.

Gary's study finds that of 45 countries in TIMSS, only 5 have a majority of students proficient in math.

Gary is now at the American Institutes for Research. His study can be found at

What you appear not to understand is that it is the NAEP achievement levels that are screwy. I attach "Oh, Those NAEP Achievement Levels" which was my September 2005 column for the NASSP Principal Leadership. It explains in 700 words what's wrong with the achievement levels. I also attach "A Test Everyone Will Fail," which was an op-ed in a May, 2007 Washington Post. I heard that the National Assessment Governing Board decided not to respond because they know they can't win.

The primary use of the achievement levels is as a bludgeon and for fear mongering. That is how you are using them.

It is wonderful to try and mobilize America to improve its public schools. Doing so with fear mongering and lies is not the way to go.


Gerald W. Bracey
Alexandria, VA