Archives for category: NAEP

New York State has bumbled into bizarre-O land. Chalkbeat reports that Néw York’s Common Core tests are more difficult than NAEP.

The NAEP tests are supposed to be internationally benchmarked. NAEP proficient is a very high standard that most students have never met (except in Massachusetts, where barely 50% reach proficient).

“In eighth-grade math, 22 percent of students earned what New York state called a passing score last school year, while 32 percent were deemed proficient on the NAEP exams. In fourth-grade reading, 33 percent passed the state test, while 37 percent of students earned a proficient score on the NAEP test. (Massachusetts was the other outlier, with more students earning a proficient score on the eighth-grade math NAEP test than on the state’s own tests.)”

State officials are pleased that their standards are beyond the reach of most students. For some strange reason, high failure rates are a source of pride. Bizarre.

The more they design tests to fail most students, the more the Opt Out movement will grow. When did education fall into the hands of technocratic sadists? They think education is a test of endurance, where only the stirring survive. Parents see education as a process of development, not a cruel race.

When I spoke to the Texas School Boards Association a few years ago, a member of the audience got up and identified himself as a school board member and an engineer. He said that he didn’t understand why the government tests every child every year. He said that in the industry where he works, it is customary to test the products periodically, on a sampling basis. I will never forget what he said: “If we tested every product, we would spend most of our time testing the product, and we wouldn’t have time left to manufacture or to improve the product.”


I was reminded of that statement when I received this comment from Doug Garnett, who is a specialist in marketing, advertising, branding, communications, and technology. Garnett wrote, just minutes ago:


Where I’m mystified is this belief that in order to have “accountability”, EVERY child has to be tested in the entire nation.


In business, we rely heavily on statistical sampling because it’s flat out too expensive to measure every item. Sampling in manufacturing, sampling in store satisfaction, sampling in purchasing, sampling in advertising impact, sampling, sampling sampling.


The NAEP relies on sampling…because it’s EFFECTIVE!


Imagine this: IF we shifted to a sampling test approach an amazing array of issues would be mitigated. The tests would lose their intensely punitive nature – and evolve toward being instructive and enlightening. They would lose the “high stakes” and become simply learning that informs. And, WE could use their reduced presence to focus on the totality of education instead of creating testing farms.


So…why don’t these so-called “business people” behind reform endorse smart business approach like sampling? Mind boggling…unless we embrace the conspiracy to redirect all of that government spending into the profits of private corporations.

According to, Senator Lamar Alexander is considering eliminating the federal mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8. Charles Barone of the hedge fund managers’ “Democrats for Education Reform” is alarmed by this proposal, claiming it is an “equity” issue that would make it impossible to compare states.

Why the need to compare test scores is an equity issue is unexplained. Apparently Barone–who used to work for Congressman George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education Committee–is unfamiliar with NAEP. That is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been testing American students since 1969. It has been comparing states since 1992 and disaggregating scores by race, gender, language, and disability status. I hope proponents of annual testing will soon explain how comparing states creates equity. We know that Mississippi has lower scores than Massachusetts, whether we test annually or every three years. The gap is not changed by knowing about it more frequently but by funding schools attended by low-performing students so they can have smaller classes, more arts programs, more specialists, better paid professionals, and amply supplied and staffed libraries.

Here is the story:

THE GOP DRAFT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR: Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander unveiled a discussion draft Tuesday night detailing his plan for reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. It borrows heavily from his 2013 proposal [ ] and if passed, it would take the federal government right out of some of the Obama administration’s most contentious policies – providing relief to states that haven’t met the administration’s bar for accountability systems and teacher evaluations. The bill would give states the option to make more than $14 billion in Title I funding portable across public schools. Alexander’s draft also makes clear that the federal government would have no involvement in states’ academic standards – although states would have to set high standards. When it comes to testing, one option would allow districts to forgo annual exams. Maggie Severns reports: Read the discussion draft here:

– Some feel that testing option would make it impossible to compare results at the state level. “This, by extension, becomes an equity issue,” said Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform. “Any effort to advance equity requires comparability of student circumstances across zip codes, incomes, race, disability, etc. Any accountability system that drives to improve the achievement of those students and target resources toward them is out the window if every school or district is held accountable based on a different set of numbers.”

After four years of Governor Chris Christie, we are used to loud complaints about how terrible New Jersey’s schools are, how poorly they perform compared to Tennessee (Arne Duncan’s favorite), how expensive they are, how large the achievement gaps are.

Bruce Baker shows that none of this is true: New Jersey’s schools perform very well indeed, and they exceed expectations.

Baker documents what he says and concludes:

“To summarize:

“NJ schools do better than expected on NAEP given statewide poverty rates, ranking among the highest states.

“NJ schools have gained more on NAEP than nearly all other states (when correcting for starting point)

“NJ’s 8th grade achievement gaps are relatively average (when correcting for income gaps). The only NJ achievement gap that is greater than average is grade 8 reading.

“NJ’s 4th grade achievement gaps are among the smallest among states (when correcting for income gaps)

“So congratulations, NJ… you’re doin’ pretty well. That’s not to say by any stretch of the imagination that we should be complacent. We’ve still got Massachusetts to catch up to in most cases. They, not Tennessee or Louisiana are giving us a run for our money. And as I pointed out in my most recent post, we need to give serious consideration to reinvesting in our neediest communities. Prior investments (including early childhood programs) may provide partial explanation for why our fourth grade achievement gaps are so relatively small. But we’ve backed off substantially on funding fairness in recent years, the consequences of which are yet to be measured.”

Someone sent me this clip from Tennessee, where Arne Duncan was trying to salvage the federally-funded online Common Core test called PARCC.

“DUNCAN: TENNESSEE CAN STILL SALVAGE TESTS: At Brick Church College Prep in Nashville, Tenn., Education Secretary Arne Duncan showered the state with praise for becoming the fastest improving state in the country. But it still has a long way to go, he said after a town hall event [ ] with state chief Kevin Huffman. The legislature delayed Common Core-aligned PARCC tests for a year, but Tennessee has time for a fix, he said. “I think that having high standards is really important,” Duncan said. “Having an honest way to measure that you’re hitting those high standards and to have transparency across the country. So if all you’re able to do is measure Tennessee students against Tennessee students and not have any sense of how you’re doing versus Massachusetts or Kentucky or Mississippi, I think that misses the point. I think the state still has a chance to do the right thing going forward.”

Question: has Secretary of Education Duncan heard about the federally-funded National Assessment of Educational Progress? Since 1992, it has been measuring academic progress in the states. Using NAEP, it is possible to compare students in Tennessee to students in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Mississippi, and other states. Instead of testing every single student, it tests scientific samples in every state and nationally. It has no stakes attached. Isn’t that as much testing as we need to compare states?

A brilliant post by G.F. Brandenburg about NAEP scores.

Shows how little has been gained by the Bush-Obama demolition derby of testing, closing schools, firing teachers and principals, opening charters.

It is all a mighty failure that has not improved test scores or education


This NPR report summarizes the 12th grade NAEP report: Scores for high school seniors are flat. Reading scores in 2013 were lower than in 1992.


While there were small gains for each racial and ethnic group since 2005, there were no gains at all since 2009, when Race to the Top was initiated.


Achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups remain wide.


Secretary of Education gnashed his teeth and said the results were troubling, and he is right. The chair of the National Assessment Governing Board said the results were unacceptable, and he is right.


In mathematics, the states that made the biggest gains in proficient students were: South Dakota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Only one of these–Massachusetts–won a Race to the Top award.


Also in mathematics, the states that had a lower percentage of proficient students than the rest of the nation were: Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Florida. Two of the lowest performing states won Race to the Top awards: Tennessee and Florida.


In reading, the states that outperformed the nation were Idaho, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Dakota. Only one of these states–Massachusetts–won a Race to the Top award.


Also in reading, the states that had the lowest percentage of proficient students were: Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia. Tennessee won a Race to the Top award.


These twelfth graders started school about the time that No Child Left Behind was signed into law, on january 8, 2002. Their entire school lives has been dominated by testing. The survival of their school depended on their test scores. Billions and billions of dollars have been diverted from classroom instruction to testing corporations. Many districts have increased class sizes and reduced services to students. Some leave closed libraries and laid off librarian, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. Many thousands of teachers have lost their job. But the testing industry has grown to be a multi-billion dollar enterprise, fattened by NCLB and RTTT.


Secretary Duncan is right. This is indeed troubling. It is time to change course. The policies of the Bush-Obama era have failed.



FairTest comments on today’s release of 12th grade NAEP scores. Their conclusion: a dozen years of test-based accountability has had no discernible effect on the test scores of seniors.

This accords with the 2010 report of the National Research Council, which released a report saying that incentives and test-based accountability are ineffective.

Although I have never put much stock in 12th grade NAEP results, due to lack of student motivation on a test that doesn’t count, there ought to be some residual effects of 12 years of testing, testing, testing.



National Center for Fair & Open Testing

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer: (239) 395-6773
mobile: (239) 699-0468
for immediate release May 7, 2014

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for twelfth graders “underscore the failure of federal and state test-driven school policies,” according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). Today’s report shows no NAEP score improvement for high school seniors in reading or math since 2009 and little progress over the past decade. Over the same period, performance gaps between racial groups have not narrowed significantly.
The NAEP trend is consistent with results from the ACT and SAT college admissions tests, where average scores continue to stagnate and racial gaps persist.
“How much more evidence do federal and state policy-makers need that driving schooling through standardized exams does not increase educational quality?” asked FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “It is time to abandon failed test-and-punish policies and adopt assessments that have been shown to improve teaching and learning.”
Schaeffer continued, “Across the country parents, teachers, students, and community activists are saying ‘enough is enough’ to testing misuse and overuse. They are opting out of tests, organizing protests against high-stakes exam overkill, and successfully pressing politicians to overhaul assessment policies. More elected officials must start listening to their constituents, who know what is going on in public school classrooms.” FairTest is a founder of the national Testing Resistance & Reform Spring campaign.

Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University concludes, after reviewing Tom Loveless’s report for Brookings, that the Common Core Standards have had little or no effect on NAEP math scores, as Loveles predicted a few years ago.


The states most aligned with CCSS had the smallest gains.


Overall, eighth grade math scores show very little improvement since the Common Core was rolled out in 2010.


He writes:


Between 1990 – 2013 there was a 22 point increase in 8th grade math. Over the 23 years this amounts to about a 1 point increase per year. However, the average score increase from 2009 – 2013, the years the Common Core has been used, has only increased 0.30 points per year, much less than before the roll out of the Common Core.


Well, four years is too soon to see the radical improvements that Bill Gates and others have promised. Maybe we will have to wait a full decade to know whether the billions spent on CCSS were well spent.



Did you know that the National Assessment Of Educational Progress used to test much more than reading and math, much more than academic subjects? Did you know that it was designed originally to assess student cooperation and behavior as well as skills? Did you know that the narrowing of NAEP testing is fairly recent?

Richard Rothstein knows what NAEP was supposed to be and he explained its history to the governing board of NAEP on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

He wrote:

“Education policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations has suffered from failure to acknowledge a critical principle of performance evaluation in all fields, public and private—if an institution has multiple goals but is held accountable only for some, its agents, acting rationally, will increase attention paid to goals for which they are evaluated, and diminish attention to those, perhaps equally important, for which they are not evaluated.

“When law and policy hold schools accountable primarily for their students’ math and reading test scores, educators inevitably, and rationally, devote less instructional resources to history, the sciences, the arts and music, citizenship, physical and emotional health, social skills, a work ethic and other curricular areas.

“Over the last decade, racial minority and socio-economically disadvantaged students have suffered the most from this curricular narrowing. As those with the lowest math and reading scores, theirs are the teachers and schools who are under the most pressure to devote greater time to test prep, and less to the other subjects of a balanced instructional program.

“One way the federal government promotes this distortion is through its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment administered biennially in every state, but only in math and reading. Government officials spend considerable effort publicizing the results. They call NAEP “The Nation’s Report Card,” but no parent would be satisfied with so partial and limited a report card for his or her child.

“Twenty-five years ago, Congress created the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to create NAEP policy. At NAGB’s conference today celebrating its silver anniversary, Rebecca Jacobsen and I describe (in a presentation drawn from our book with Tamara Wilder, Grading Education. Getting Accountability Right) how NAGB’s disproportionate attention to math and reading was not intended when NAEP was first administered in the early 1970s.

“In those early years, NAEP attempted to assess any goal area for which schools devote, in the words of NAEP’s designers, “15-20% of their time…, [the] less tangible areas, as well as the customary areas, in a fashion the public can grasp and understand.”

“For example, to see whether students were learning to cooperate, NAEP sent trained observers to present a game to 9-year-olds in sampled schools. In teams of four, the 9-year-olds were offered a prize to guess what was hidden in a box. Teams competed to see which, by asking questions, could identify the toy first. Team members had to agree on which questions to ask, and the role of posing questions was rotated. Trained NAEP observers rated the 9-year-olds on their skills in cooperative problem-solving and NAEP then reported on the percentage who were capable of it.

“NAEP assessors also evaluated cooperative skills of 13- and 17-year-olds. Assessors presented groups of eight students with a list of issues about which teenagers typically had strong opinions. Students were asked to reach consensus on the five most important and then write recommendations on how to resolve two of them. The list included, for 13-year-olds, such issues as whether they should have a curfew for going to bed, and for 17-year-olds, eligibility minimums for voting, drinking, and smoking. NAEP observers rated skills such as whether students gave reasons for their points of view and defended a group member’s right to hold a contrary viewpoint.”

For the full presentation, written with Rebecca Jacobsen, read this.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 162,960 other followers