Archives for category: NAEP

Many researchers were amazed to see that the state of Mississippi had a sharp growth in its fourth-grade reading scores.

Fortunately, the far-right Thomas B. Fordham Institute reveals how this happened.

The surest path to success in fourth-grade reading on NAEP is to hold back third-graders who did not pass the third-grade reading test. It works! It increased Florida’s fourth-grade reading scores. And it worked for Mississippi too! You have to give credit where it is due: Jeb Bush thought up this way to artificially inflate Florida’s NAEP standing. Research has consistently shown that kids who are held back are likelier to drop out of school later, but who cares about them? The scores and ratings are everything! Mississippi holds back a higher percentage of third-graders than any other state. How about those numbers!

One of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary 2019 NAEP report is Mississippi. A long-time cellar dweller in the NAEP rankings, Mississippi students have risen faster than anyone since 2013, particularly for fourth graders. In fourth grade reading results, Mississippi boosted its ranking from forty-ninth in 2013 to twenty-ninth in 2019; in math, they zoomed from fiftieth to twenty-third. Adjusted for demographics, Mississippi now ranks near the top in fourth grade reading and math according to the Urban Institute’s America’s Gradebook report.

So how have they done it? Education commentators have pointed to several possible causes: roll-out of early literacy programs and professional development (Cowen & Forte), faithful implementation of Common Core standards (Petrilli), and focus on the “science of reading” (State Superintendent Carey Wright).

But one key part of Mississippi’s formula has gotten less coverage: holding back low-performing students. In response to the legislature’s 2013 Literacy Based Promotion Act (LBPA), Mississippi schools retain a higher percentage of K–3 students than any other state. (Mississippi-based Bracey Harris of The Hechinger Report is one education writer who has reported on this topic.)

The LBPA created a “third grade gate,” making success on the reading exit exam a requirement for fourth grade promotion. This isn’t a new idea of course. Florida is widely credited with starting the trend in 2003, and now sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have a reading proficiency requirement to pass into fourth grade.

But Mississippi has taken the concept further than others, with a retention rate higher than any other state. In 2018–19, according to state department of education reports, 8 percent of all Mississippi K–3 students were held back (up from 6.6 percent the prior year). This implies that over the four grades, as many as 32 percent of all Mississippi students are held back; a more reasonable estimate is closer to 20 to 25 percent, allowing for some to be held back twice. (Mississippi’s Department of Education does not report how many students are retained more than once.)

Just goes to show: If at first you don’t succeed, fake it.

 

 

John Merrow writes here about the stagnant scores reported on NAEP, PISA, and every other measure. They are an indictment of the test-centric policies of Bush, Obama, and Trump, he says.

He writes:

Given the PISA results and the harsh truth that NAEP scores have been disappointing for many years, it’s time to rename NAEP. Let’s call it the National Assessment of Educational Paralysis, because paralysis accurately describes what has been going on for more than two decades of “School Reform” under the test-centric policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Unless and until we renounce these misguided “School Reform” policies developed under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, educational paralysis will continue, and millions of children will continue to be mis-educated and under-educated.

Right now, too many school districts over-test, which means their teachers under-teach. Too often their leaders impose curricula that restrict teachers’ ability to innovate.  At the same time, these narrow curricula have curtailed or eliminated art, music, physical education, recess, drama, and even science.  Today many districts judge teachers largely by student test scores, leading teachers to devote more and more class time to test-prep, not teaching and exploration of idea.  This is what I and others label the ‘test-and-punish’ approach to education, instead of a far more desirable ‘assess to improve’ philosophy.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, writes here about the use and misuse of NAEP scores to advance disruption in the schools.

 

A new wave of “misnaepery” is heading towards Oklahoma and other states. After most or all of the corporate reform agenda became law in about 90 percent of states, reading scores dropped so much that even a reform true believer dubbed NAEP as “National Assessment of Educational Stagnation and/or Decline.”

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/07/24/37naep.h32.html
https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cDovL2VkdWNhdGlvbmdhZGZseXNob3cubGlic3luLmNvbS9yc3M%3D&episode=NzEzNTA2MzJjMDI0NDA0YmJmMjM4NjVhNzAwODE4NzE%3D&hl=en

After test-driven, market-driven reform was implemented, from 2013 to 2019, the nation’s 8th grade math scores for African-Americans dropped by five points. But I would argue that 8th grade NAEP reading scores are the most important and reliable metric, and they dropped seven points in six years for African-American 8th graders.

Today, Oklahoma’s 4th grade NAEP reading scores have dropped to four points below the 1990s pre-HB1017 tax increase level. And since accountability-driven, competition-driven reforms were supposed to improve outcomes for our poorest children of color, it is shocking that from 2013 to 2019 black student 8th grade scores dropped 15 points!

https://www.educationnext.org/make-2019-results-nations-report-card/

https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/worst-news-naep?utm_source=Fordham+Institute+Newsletters+%26+Announcements&utm_campaign=f22e67acec-20160918_LateLateBell9_16_2016_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5fa2df08a3-f22e67acec-71894457&mc_cid=f22e67acec&mc_eid=3095764e3b

Rather than admit their mistakes, reformers have retained their original meme that was used to justify hurried and risky reforms to blow up the education “status quo,” so that “disruptive innovation” can spark “transformative change.”

Two contradictory misnaepery themes are being rushed into the breach by the Fordham Institute. The smiley-faced meme is that teachers and students will naturally rise to meet far more “rigorous” standards. On the other hand, the conservative Fordham Institute has been blaming states like Oklahoma for supposedly hurting student performance by ending high school graduation exams. It is also arguing that we should return to the punitive policies of the former Chief for Change State Superintendent Janet Baressi and retain even more 3rd graders based on reading tests. 

First, ignoring the damage done by their experiments, accountability-driven, competition-driven reformers argue that radically higher testing standards will produce transformative improvements. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was a leader in the reaction against Baressi’s privatization agenda, so I can’t be too critical when she has to adopt some policies pushed by Education Next and other “astroturf” think tanks. Rightly or wrongly, she revised the state’s standards and assessments. There are no stakes attached to these metrics, and they allow the State Department of Education to say, “Oklahoma’s new standards [are] one of only 17 ‘A’ grades in the nation, up from the previous rank of 47th and a grade of ‘D.’”

So, for instance, Oklahoma’s 2017 8th grade math tests set a proficiency level which is at the NAEP proficiency level, basically comparable to around a 300 on that rigorous standard. The only groups in the United States were average scores reach that level are white and economically advantaged students in Massachusetts, a state where per capita income is nearly 50 percent greater. Oklahoma’s NAEP scores currently correlate with a level just above Kazakhstan.  Advantaged students in Massachusetts perform at the level of the counterparts on PISA and TMMS in the top performing states and nations, except for South Korea.

https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/naep_timss/profiles.aspx
https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA-2015-United-States-MA.pdf
https://www.epi.org/publication/bringing-it-back-home-why-state-comparisons-are-more-useful-than-international-comparisons-for-improving-u-s-education-policy/#_note11

Of course, now that we listened to conservative reformers at the Fordham Institute and raised our expectations, Oklahoma students will soon join students at the top of the world’s education systems …

Fordham and other national reformers are also launching a second round misnaepery memes.  The 2015 NAEP was its first test of 4th graders after Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act required the retention of 3rd graders who don’t pass a reading test. Once Chief for Change Baressi was defeated by a pragmatic Republican, Hofmeister, educators were allowed more judgment in deciding whether to retain students. Until last year, however, little funding was available for interventions to assist struggling readers, much less adequate training and supports for inexperienced and emergency teachers in early elementary grades. (Oklahoma has hired more than 3,000 emergency certified teachers in a year.)

The 2015, 4th grade test scores increased by 2-1/2 percent. A conservative Republican reformer claimed they “were attributed to the 2014 implementation of a law that barred students from being promoted to the fourth grade if they read at lower than a second-grade level.” Those gains disappeared during the next two NAEPs. So, it is argued that more teeth needs to be restored to the retention policy.

But we also need to ask what really prompted the one-year jump in test scores. As in other states, the retention of low-performing readers can provide a temporary boost in NAEP scores. If you add up the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders who would have been in 4th grade during 2015, but who were retained, the total comes to about 9,000. Before the RSA, the more typical number of retentions was about 4,000. That means that about 5,000 more of the lowest performing students were missing from the 2015 4th grade class of about 47,000. The retention of more than 10 percent of the tested class could explain the one-time test score boost. As those students subsequently entered 4th grade, test scores dropped back to normative levels.

https://ocrdata.ed.gov/DistrictSchoolSearch#
https://oklahomawatch.org/2018/12/14/oklahoma-nearly-tops-nation-in-holding-back-early-grade-students/
https://journalrecord.com/2019/11/07/free-market-friday-student-results-continue-to-decline/

And what happened to that year’s economically disadvantaged students when they took 8th grade tests in 2019? Their scores were down by 2-½ percent in comparison to their 2015 8th grade peers.

Who knows what will be Fordham’s next misnaepery-driven attack on public education. After all, they were one of the think tanks who argued that the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002 deserved credit for the NAEP gains of the late-1990s! And now it is proclaiming an “Agincourt-level disaster” is the result of weakening NCLB accountability. The thing we know is that the Fordham spin will be picked up, amplified, and used by rightwing lobbyists throughout the nation to slander public schools.

One of the perks of being Secretary of Education is that he or she selects member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which is the oversight body for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The board is designed to be bipartisan and to represent people from different walks of life. As the NAGB website states, The Governing Board is made up of 26 members, including governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators and researchers, business representatives, and members of the general public. Members are appointed by the U.S. secretary of education.

When I was appointed to NAGB by Secretary Richard Riley on behalf of the Clinton administration in 1998, the board was truly representative and diverse and collegial. We worried constantly, as did Congress, about keeping “politics” out of the decision making process.

That was then, this is now. Now we have a Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is actively hostile to public education. It is reasonable to assume that she wants NAEP to show public schools in the worst possible light to provide ammunition for her crusade to destroy them. No one questions whether her selections are “political.” Of course they are. Unlike Secretary Riley and other secretaries, no one she selected disagrees with her dire diagnosis of public education.

Peter Greene writes here about her choices for NAGB here. Here are the folks who will shape future assessments. My only hope, as a former member of the board, is that their ability to mess up NAEP will be constrained by the professional staff, unless she has replaced them with rightwing zealots and by the limited nature of the decisions that the board makes (whether and when to test the arts or history or civics or “grit”).

After four years in which to replace retiring members, DeVos will have put her stamp on NAGB. Perhaps the standards will become so high that no one reaches NAEP Proficient, not in public schools or charter schools or religious schools, and we can declare all of American education a disaster and throw up out hands in feigned despair. Greene sees the slant of this board as reason not to take NAEP results seriously in the future. The media, however, will continue to see NAEP as the gold standard, so I am hoping the new additions will not render it useless.

Nancy Bailey read a list of organizations who were blaming teachers for not adhering to the “science” of reading and thus blaming teachers for NAEP reading scores.

She got steamed and pointed out that none of these individuals or organizations criticizing teachers are known as teachers themselves.

She got so steamed that she names names in this post. 

These are the organizations, she says, that have the sheer audacity to blame teachers for what they themselves can’t do!

They write the policies that constrain teachers but take no responsibility when their policies fail.

Busybodies! When are they held accountable?

After listing the groups, she concludes:

This conversation should take place, because something is wrong when parents are unhappy with their child’s schooling. It isn’t a debate that will be won by yelling at each other on social media, but by working together at the school level.

It should include a state department of education in each state that investigates problems and isn’t about getting rid of public education. The U.S. Department of Education should also be working to better address the controversy surrounding reading and what’s behind denying students with reading disabilities their IDEA rights.

Universities should review how they teach reading, but they also shouldn’t be forced by these groups to destroy reading practices that have worked for years.

It is, however, difficult to do this at this time. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the previous education secretaries, never taught, never studied reading in a university setting or worked to remediate student difficulties, and have themselves been about the business of destroying schools and de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

If you think the NAEP scores are poor, look at the groups mentioned here. It has been a rigged game for years!

Last night there was a grand event at the Kennedy Center where veterans of the Bush and Obama education world joined together to wring their hands about the crisis at hand. The crisis is not the mess they made of American education for the past 20 years. The crisis is that the tests are not hard enough, the punishments are not tough enough, and the nation needs to buckle down and keep on testing and firing and demanding more from everyone. Except them. Of course.

Our reader Laura Chapman explains what was behind the big party:

“I wanted to look past the PR for this one event. The event is a launch for a new campaign capitalizing on “stagnating” NAEP scores and persistent gaps among students “who have been underserved.”

“The reformists are calling for “evidence based” methods of teaching using only “high quality, standards-aligned, content-rich curriculum.” Suddenly these reformists think “deficits in content-knowledge” matter. But these reformists are really fans of the Common Core and have a lonh history of ignoring much else worthy of study, content in the arts and humanities for example.

“In addition to being sponsored by the Collaborative for Student Success, this “new literacy campaign” is sponsored by Achieve, The Alliance for Excellent Education, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Learning Heroes, Literacy Now, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Council on Teacher Quality, National Urban Alliance, National Urban League, Military Child Coalition, and The Education Trust. These have been supporters of the Common Core, and many love high-stakes tests.

“The Collaborative for Student Success is a multi-faced project of the New Venture Fund. It is supported by: Bloomberg Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, ExxonMobil, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The website markets three of the Collaborative’s favorite math programs, but it also features “campaigns” of the Collaborative. Each campaign has a separate website. All campaigns are based on the premise that states are not living up to the requirements of ESSA. Truly, the sponsors of the Literacy Initiative are die-hard defenders of the Common Core and ESSA. Here are the camaigns in progress.

“A web-based “Assessment HQ” offers test scores and demographic breakouts for test scores “for more than half of states in grades 3-8.” This campaign is designed to claim that state assessments are not tough enough or fully reported to parents. The Collaborative scoops up state assessment results in math and ELA and puts these together in an interactive map. The Assessment HQ is actually sluggish and out of date. It is presenting data from the 2014-15 school year and it was designed to push PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests.

“The “Check State Plans” campaign offers ratings of the state plans for ESSA based on their strict conformity to ESSA. The Collaborative asked 45 reviewers to judge state plans, back in 2017, at about the same time that Bellwether Education Partners also put together a panel to review state ESSA plans. The Collaborative wanted to see “the following principles” honored in state plans. “Set the bar high for what students need to know and understand; Focus on closing the achievement gap in math and English; Ensure that parents and communities have access to meaningful data; Have a real plan for helping those schools that have been historically failing.”

“The “Educators for High Standards” campaign has offered about 12 fellowships to teachers willing to voice enthusiasm for ESSA, along with “partners” from the following groups, all known to push for high-stakes tests and the Common Core: The National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, PARCC, Teach Plus, Student Achievement Partners (Achieve the Core), National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Hope Street Group, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), Teach for America, Center for Teacher Quality, and Educators4Excellece.
The” Military Families for High Standards” campaign features the work of advocates for schools serving military families. Among the resources is an article from the Center for American Progress titled “How the Common Core Improves Education for Military-Connected Children.”

“The Honesty Gap” campaign asserts that states must take NAEP’s definition of “proficiency” as the standard for judging the “honesty” in state tests. State tests that claim students are “proficient “are dishonest unless the state standard is the same as for NAEP tests. The “honesty gaps” for each state are shown on an interactive map. The explicit message is that schools are often lying to parents about student achievement. The website should be called Arne Duncan’s BS. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=246201831
The “Understanding ESSA” campaign provides news about USDE activities (up-to-date) and links to state actions that comply with ESSA.

The whole website is devoted to belligerent judgments of states, districts, and schools while bolstering advocacy groups who will insist on “strict fidelity” to ESSA in state plans.

These birds of a feather intent on repeating the misery of two decades of top down reform.

 

 

William Mathis, a member of the Vermont Board of Education and managing director of the National Education Policy Center, reviews reactions to the dismal scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The people who inflicted high-stakes testing insist that more and more and more testing is needed. More of the same policies that have already failed will surely work if we keep doing the same things for another generation or two.

The main perpetrator of the claim that we must “stay the (failing) course” is Arne Duncan, of course.

Mathis writes:

The latest round of flagellation of dead horse flesh has been provoked by the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. After 20 years of overall progress, many of the scores went down. While all groups improved over the long haul, the gaps between white and other racial groups varied over time but generally remained in place.[i] Education critics lament and proclaim, “It’s time to get tough! Let’s do some more of what didn’t work!” Meanwhile officials whisper measured words through steepled fingers saying they are “concerned,” that we must do more to ensure our students are well prepared to compete with China and “we have more work to do.” Still others claim that this exercise in numerology is helpful.

Put plainly, standardized tests have no meaningful relationship with economic development and they are poor definers of learning needs. Nevertheless, the NAEP is a valuable outside way of examining trends.

Such is the case with NAEP. The strongest predictor of standardized test scores is poverty.[ii] In this latest release, the biggest drops were among disadvantaged students. Sean Riordan at Stanford has compiled a data base of all school districts in the nation and found that test scores are most affected by this single construct.[iii]

He goes on to note that schools are highly segregated by class and by race. In fact, society is showing signs of resegregating.[iv] Resolving these gaps is our first threshold issue.  High needs children are concentrated in high poverty schools which are, on average, less effective than schools with lower poverty. In a vicious cycle, poor schools are provided lesser resources. Compounding the problem, the Census Bureau tells us the wealth gap has sharply increased across the nation. Many schools across the nation have not recovered from the 2008 fiscal crisis and the federal government has never provided the promised support for needy children.

Regardless, the schools were mandated to solve the test score problem. The trouble was that the policymakers got it backwards. Poverty prevents learning. It is the threshold issue. Without resorting to what we knew, the dead horse was beaten once more with the No Child Left Behind Act. We adopted the Common Core curriculum, punished schools, and fired principals and teachers whose misfortune was being assigned to a school with high concentrations of needy children. It was literally expected that a child from a broken home, hungry and with ADHD would be ready to sit down and learn quadratic equations.  Nevertheless, the test-based school accountability approach emerged and still remains the dominant school philosophy. While it is claimed that successful applications exist, the research has not been found that says poverty can be overcome by beating the dead horse. The irony is that the tests themselves show that a test based system is not a successful reform strategy.

 

Guy Brandenburg offers a graph of 8th Grade scores on NAEP from 1992-2019 for four jurisdiction and invites you to find a miracle , if you can.

I am not sure that I agree with Steven Singer’s point here, that NAEP scores tell us nothing other than that students from affluent homes have higher test scores than students who live in poverty. 

His main point is undeniable. All standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income.

We could use income and poverty data to learn what the test scores tell us, without wasting billions on standardized tests and corrupting instruction.

But I think that NAEP does tell us something we need official confirmation for: the utter failure of Disruptive Corporate Reform.

The Disrupters have promised since No Child Left Behind was proposed in 2001 that they knew how to raise test scores and close achievement gaps: Test every child every year and hold schools accountable for rising or falling scores. That will do it, said George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige and Sandy Kress. They rode the wave of the “Texas miracle,” which turned out to be non-existent. Texas in 2019 is stuck right in the middle of the distribution of states.

Then came Jeb Bush, with his fantastical claims of a “Florida miracle,” which are now repeated by Betsy DeVos. Look at the NAEP scores: Florida is right in the middle of the states. No miracle there.

Arne Duncan has been promoting Tennessee, which as one of the first Race to the Top states, which is also ensconced in the middle of the distribution.

Look for yourself.

Two states that were firmly under the control of Reform heroes, Louisiana and New Mexico, are at the tail end of the distribution.

What do the NAEP scores tell us?

Don’t look for miracles.

Don’t believe propaganda spun by snake-oil salesman.

Look to states and districts that are economically developed and that fund their schools adequately and fairly.

The scores in states may go up or down a few points, but the bottom line is that the basics matter most. That is, a state willing and able to support education and families able to support their children.

 

Former D.C. math teacher Guy Brandenburg attended the NAEP press conference in D.C. where Betsy DeVos explained what lessons the nation can lean from the NAEP results. 

DeVos thinks the rest of the nation should learn from D.C., which has the largest racial gaps of any urban district tested by NAEP; Or Florida, where test scores went down; or Mississippi, where scores rose even though it is at the very bottom of all stages tested by NAEP. When you are at the very bottom, it’s easier to “improve” your scores.

When Betsy DeVos is long forgotten, please do not forget that she held up Mississippi as a model for the nation!

Brandenburg wants the world to know that D.C. made its greatest gains before mayoral control.

I found that it is true that DC’s recent increases in scores on the NAEP for all students, and for black and Hispanic students, are higher than in other jurisdictions.

However, I also found that those increases were happening at a HIGHER rate BEFORE DC’s mayor was given total control of DC’s public schools; BEFORE the appointment of Michelle Rhee; and BEFORE the massive DC expansion of charter schools.

He has the data and graphs to prove it.