Recently, policymakers at the Arkansas Department of Education were pleased to release the results of the 2008 Arkansas Benchmark exams, which indicate more Arkansas students are becoming proficient each year. This is also good news for proponents of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), federal legislation aimed at increasing student achievement through the encouragement of standards-based reform. However, Arkansas, like the other 49 states, sets its own standards for proficient performance. Thus, state by state comparisons of “proficiency” may not be meaningful. With 50 states administering 50 tests to determine whether students are meeting 50 sets of curricular standards, many worry the system will encourage policymakers to set low standards, thus creating the appearance of success with high numbers of students meeting those standards. In other words, states may engage in a “race to the bottom” for low student expectations.
McKenzie, Sarah C. and Ritter, Gary W., "Are All State Exams Equal?" (2008). Policy Briefs. 88.