Results are in from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress, also called NAEP or The Nation’s Report Card. NAEP is a national exam given to fourth and eighth grade students to “assess what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas” (The Nation’s Report Card).
Average reading scores for eighth-graders increased from 2015, yet there were no changes for reading at fourth grade or for math at either grade. Reformers say their efforts are improving scores, and public school advocates say their increase in scores- “were “flat” and “stagnating,” “mixed” and “steady” or even contained “bright spots” (Atlanta Journal Constitutional).
After reading the scores, one educational advocacy group wanted better “screening” for teachers, another more private school options. Several said schools needed stronger accountability, which usually means testing, but an anti-testing group said nearly two-decades of high-stakes tests had produced little progress (Atlanta Journal Constitutional).
What about the achievement gap? Well, to no one’s surprise, it’s widening. “In fourth-grade reading, for example, the gap between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent of students widened by four points. In fourth-grade math, the gap widened by six points” (Hechinger Report).
The gap in reading scores between the top 10% and the bottom 10% increased by three points. The gap in math scores between the top 10% and the bottom 10% increased by six points (Hechinger Report).
Students in Chicago, touted last year by the New York Times as “the most effective school district in America, based on how much students had been advancing each year from 2009 to 2015″ did not show gains this year (Hechinger Report).
After many years of impressive gains in Washington DC (now attributed to questionable practices), educational progress stalled in 2017 as students remain well below the national average. While in San Diego, Fresno, and Los Angeles, schools reported gains in fourth grade reading scores. At the same time higher income districts also showed gains.
None of this should be a surprise. Top income level students fare well on the test, and bottom income level students do not. The gap doesn’t narrow if both groups continue to move (or not move) at the same rate. So how do we narrow the achievement gap? Continuing to take tests and report results no one finds surprising doesn’t help. Pointing fingers at who’s fault it is doesn’t help. Pointing out stagnant scores of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, though glaringly obvious, also doesn’t help.
According to Brookings Institute, “Unless we rapidly increase the rates at which we close our race-, ethnicity-, and income-based gaps, unequal access to education and the consequences of this inequality will affect students today as well as subsequent generations.”
We have to change the variables. Offer students support they need in reading and math to get better. Fund initiatives that support students who need assistance. Train teachers to be more effective with students who continue to score low.
NAEP scores are a big deal, but mostly to people who want to point fingers at each other. My dad used to say, “Figures don’t lie, liars figure.” NAEP scores tell us what we already know. What are we going to do about it? For the sake of all children, do something differently next time.
These are my reflections for today.
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