Leonie Haimson explains here why NAEP scores have been flat or declined for the past decade: the combination of the recession of 2008 (and its aftermath) and the Common Core was a hard blow to students and teachers.

She writes:

The poor results are most likely a consequence of several factors, including the damaging double whammy experienced by schools in 2009-2011 – when the great recession hit, which led to thousands of teacher jobs lost and class sizes increasing sharply, and the imposition of the Common Core standards…

Many states and districts, including NYC, still have not recovered from the sharp increase in class size that occurred starting in 2008.   Just as class size reduction benefits students of color and from low income families the most, increases in class size hurt their opportunities to learn the most, helping to explain the widening achievement gap over this period.

In addition, the corporate-style policies that proponents claimed would help narrow the achievement gap, including the Common Core standards and state exams aligned with those standards, adopted in nearly all states starting in 2010, likely contributed to the decline in performance on the NAEPs as well.

The Common Core emphasizes informational text rather than literature, and  “close reading” strategies, with students assigned to analyze short passages, often excerpts from literature, in isolation from any larger context.

In essence, Common Core led to a curriculum designed for test prep, but devoid of engaging relevance and content for many students. To make things worse, the assigned texts are often two or three Lexile grade levels above the actual reading level of the students to whom the reading is assigned, in a misplaced intent to provide more “rigor.”

Close reading involves analyzing and re-analyzing individual passages, focusing on details and interpreting the author’s particular choice of words, structure, and intent, without any reference to anything in the student’s own experience or prior knowledge: “Students go deeper in the text, explore the author’s craft and word choices, analyze the text’s structure and implicit meaning” etc..  It is a process that is more suited to a graduate seminar in literary criticism than elementary or even high school English classrooms, and has been imposed upon classrooms throughout the United States in a misguided effort to sharpen their analytic “skills”.  It is hard to imagine anything more boring, and more likely to turn off a young reader.

Haimson then quotes several teachers who explain how the CCSS has ruined instruction for their students.

She continues:

Strangely enough, the NY Times story on the NAEPs mentioned neither the recession nor the Common Core in attempting to explain why there has been no  progress since 2009. In a Twitter exchange with one of the reporters, she said no one had mentioned Common Core to her in years.   

I don’t doubt that few if any of its original proponents now mention Common Core  – given its abysmal failure to improve results in our schools — but that doesn’t mean that millions of students and teachers aren’t still wrestling with its flaws every day in classrooms throughout the nation, as evidenced by the above tweets.

In any case, the last quote in the Times article was from Jim Cowen, the executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, an organization established to promote the Common Core standards, decrying how the state tests — those explicitly aligned with the standards — have become too easy and there was a need for “accountability” — but not apparently for those who promoted the flawed standards themselves.

Digital reading may also have contributed to the NAEP score debacle.

All in all, Haimson concludes that the scores are a damning indictment of the Gates/David Coleman/Arne Duncan agenda. Add to that the NCLB agenda.

But you can be sure that there will be no accountability for any of them.