Search results for: "NAEP"

Count on John Merrow to find a totally fresh way of looking at the 2019 NAEP scores!

He asks: What would John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Aristotle say?

The scores were disappointing but the responses were predictable:

The responses from the Administration, the center-right, and the left were not surprising.  Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos labelled it a ‘student achievement crisis’ and issued a call for ‘education freedom’ for parents so they could escape failing schools.  See here for her response and here for analysis.

The center-right, basically the ‘School Reform’ advocates who have controlled the public education for 20 years, focused on the smattering of good news in the NAEP report:

       Hispanic students had a higher average mathematics score in 2019 compared to 2017.

       Fourth grade mathematics scores increased in nine states.

       Mississippi showed an increase in grade 4 reading.

       Grade 8 reading scores increased in the District of Columbia.

This could be presented another way, of course: Mississippi was the ONLY state where 4th grade reading scores increased, and DC was the ONLY place where 8th grade reading scores improved.

But John takes a longer view. What would the great thinkers say?

His answers might surprise you.

Gary Rubinstein, math teacher at Stuyvesant High School, is a skilled myth buster. He frequently unmasks “miracle” stories.

In this post, he demolishes the claim that Louisiana has improved faster in 8th grade math than other states.

This is the last gasp of the Disruption movement, which has controlled federal and state policy for 20 years but has little to show for it.

As Rubinstein shows, Arne Duncan and John White are leading the effort to find the “bright side” of the latest NAEP results, which were stagnant In 2019 and have been stagnant for a decade.

Duncan says the nation should look to Louisiana for inspiration. Louisiana ranked among the bottom  states on NAEP, 44th to 49th, depending on the grade and the subject. But how creative to point to one of the lowest performing states as a national model! Do what Louisiana did and your state too can rank among the bottom five states in the nation!

Gary points out that Louisiana has indeed improved, but its 2019 scores on 8th grade math were actually a point lower than its scores were in 2007! In other words, Louisiana hasn’t gained at all for the past dozen years!.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the leaders of the Disruption movement admitted that their 20-year-long policy of test-and-punish is both stale and failed?

Wouldn’t it be great if they said, “Whoa! We’re on the wrong track. We’ve inflicted nonstop testing on the nation’s children since 2002. We have spent billions on testing and test-prep. Scores went up for a few years but leveled off in 2007. Enough! Our answers are wrong. Time for fresh thinking.”


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.

Rosa DeLauro is one of the most significant members of Congress. She oversees Congressional appropriations for education. She is a strong supporter of public education and a critic of privatization of public funding.



October 30, 2019


Will Serio: 202-225-3661


DeLauro Statement on 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress Results


WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, released the following statement after the Department of Education released the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results.


“The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress results for our nation’s fourth- and eighth-grade students are disappointing and show that we must work urgently to strengthen public education in America. That is why I am so outraged to see Education Secretary Betsy DeVos using these results to promote the Trump administration’s cruel, reckless plans for public education.”


“Secretary DeVos proposed cutting K-12 education programs by $4.8 billion in fiscal year 2020 while propping up a $5 billion annual tax scheme to fund private school vouchers. DeVos also wants to eliminate federal funding for afterschool programs, teacher professional development, and student support and enrichment programs. That is unconscionable. Our nation’s public schools are in dire need of robust investments—not Secretary DeVos’ cuts and privatization plans. Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 29 states spent less per student in 2015 than they had before the Great Recession. That is why House Democrats passed a Labor-HHS-Education funding bill that increases investments in public education by $3.5 billion to help reverse this decade of disinvestment and austerity for our schools and communities.”


“Secretary DeVos also claims that additional funding for our public schools does not improve outcomes. That claim has no basis in reality. A 2018 review of research on education spending and student outcomes by a Northwestern University economist found statistically significant positive results for students in 12 out of 13 studies. Since then, similar studies in Texas, Wisconsin, California, and other states have also found that increases in school funding improve student outcomes.”


“Instead of exploiting these disappointing 2019 NAEP results to spread lies and promote her privatization agenda, Secretary DeVos should join House Democrats and families across our nation by supporting increased investments in our public education system.”



In a thoughtful article, Matt Barnum writes in Chalkbeat that Betsy DeVos used the disappointing results of the NAEP 2019 national tests to call for her “Education Freedom” plan, which would further disinvest in public schools and divert funding from the federal government, states, and local school districts to charters and vouchers.

Barnum writes:

But the call for more school choice — which, alongside deregulation of education at the federal level, DeVos has rebranded as “education freedom” — in response to stagnant test scores is certain to spur debate.

Research has generally found that charter schools perform comparably to district schools on state exams, with those in cities performing better and online charters performing worse. There is some evidence linking the growth of charter schools in cities to rising test scores across the board.

But recent studies on three voucher programs that subsidize private school tuition have shown that they reduce test scores in math. (DeVos has previously blamed over-regulation for Louisiana’s results.) In D.C., voucher recipients did about the same as public school students test-score wise, according to a recent study.

He added:

A number of studies have found that tougher test-based accountability rules, including No Child Left Behind, raised NAEP scores in math. Another recent studyfound evidence that the introduction of the Common Core standards reduced NAEP achievement.

Two studies have also linked more resources for schools to higher NAEP scores — though DeVos suggested otherwise Wednesday.

“Over the past 30 years, per-pupil spending has skyrocketed,” she said. “A massive increase in spending to buy flatlined achievement.”

One study showed that school finance reforms that resulted in more money boosted scores, and another found that education cuts in the wake of the Great Recession led to lower scores.

One undeniable fact is that the two lowest-scoring cities in the nation on the NAEP–Detroit and Milwaukee–have extensive choice. Detroit has loads of charter schools, and Milwaukee has charter schools and vouchers. If choice is the answer, as DeVos claims, it certainly has not helped these two cities.

To someone who has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Despite any evidence to the contrary, Betsy DeVos will push the same agenda that she has pushed for the past thirty years: school choice. It doesn’t raise test scores, it intensifies segregation, it defunds the community’s public schools, but DeVos doesn’t care. She wants public money to go to religious schools, corporate charter chains, for-profit schools, online schools, homeschooling. That’s her agenda, and nothing will persuade her otherwise.



This is a strong statement by Randi Weingarten. Please note that 10% of New York City’s public school students are homeless; students in many other districts suffer trauma, including homelessness, lack of access to medical care and basic nutrition, and inadequate housing. These figures should be appended to NAEP reports in the future.


AFT President Randi Weingarten’s Statement on NAEP Report Card

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement in response to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Report Card:


“What we see in this data snapshot, while disappointing, is not surprising: Our students are still bearing the brunt of two decades of austerity, competition and test-based fixation that have failed to prioritize the needs of students, including the 90 percent of kids who attend public schools. Twenty-one states still spend less on public education than before the Great Recession, and during this decade of disinvestment there has been little to no change in either the math or reading performance of our highest-risk students.


“What the survey data doesn’t tell us in detail is why. Almost half of America’s kids have trauma, and they’re going to school in classrooms without nurses and counselors. For years, we’ve been advocating that children need comprehensive social and emotional supports so they’re able to engage in meaningful learning in safe and welcoming environments. It’s vital to meet kids where they are and to do what evidence shows works for improving student well-being and achievement.


“Since the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act just four years ago, some states and districts have started stepping up to the plate to use evidence-based strategies that are tailored to their communities, and we’re already seeing incremental gains in high school graduation rates. So why stop now, when our work is just starting to pay off? Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ignores the real issues that plague our classrooms and student achievement, presumably because they disrupt her political agenda to siphon public money into private hands and expand private school vouchers and for-profit school ventures. But the evidence on achievement in voucher programs has not found statistically positive gains for students using vouchers, and most large-scale studies have found that students actually saw relative learning losses. DeVos has been putting her thumb on the scale against public schools and public education since Day One—cutting the very programs that help kids the most.


“So, our answer to the question of how we help students succeed shouldn’t be to go back to the competition-and-austerity era, or to pull the rug from the strategies that we know are starting to work and have potential to grow. We have to push forward and continue fighting for the investments that prioritize children’s well-being; provide wider access to high-quality instruction and learning experiences; and engage parents, communities, educators and students in making our public schools safe, welcoming environments where teachers want to teach, parents want to send their kids, and students want to learn.”

After a generation of disruptive reforms—No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, VAM and Common Core—after a decade or more of disinvestment in education, after years of bashing and demoralizing teachers, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 2019 shows the results:

Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”

Since 2017, reading performance has dropped significantly across grades 4 and 8, with math performance mixed, based on results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progressreleased Wednesday. Some racial achievement gaps closed—in part because of falling scores among white students—and gaps between struggling and high-achieving students continued to widen.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos used the results as an opportunity to call for more charters and vouchers, although Florida (her model state, with large numbers of charters and vouchers) saw significant declines in both subjects and grades.

According to Education Week,

Every American family needs to open The Nation’s Report Card this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future,” said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students.”

DeVos called the results a “wakeup call,” arguing, “We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem.”

Instead, DeVos seems to be doubling down on expanding school choice. She pledged a “transformational plan” by the administration to help students “escape failing schools.”

However, NCES found that in more than half of states and systems tested in math, 6 percent to 14 percent of students had teachers who reported “serious problems” with inadequate classroom supplies.

Every year for at least the last decade, NAEP results have been described either as “a wake-up call” or “a Sputnik moment.”

Wake up! Support the nation’s public schools, which enroll 85% of the nation’s children! Invest in the future of our society!


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is an education scholar who specializes in smoking out quack reforms, like the “value-added” accountability measures used to judge teacher quality.

In this post, She investigates whether the 13 states that grade states with a single letter grade of A-F achieve higher scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress after implementing this strategy. 

Jeb Bush initiated the idea of giving schools a single letter grade.

I have long believed that it was a singularly stupid idea. If your child came home from school with a report card that contained only one letter grade, you as a parent would be outraged. No individual child is an A or B or C or D or F. She may be great in math but weak in science, average in reading but excellent in art or history.

If it’s wrong to give a single letter grade to one child, it is ludicrous to give a single letter grade to an institution that has hundreds of students, staff, programs, etc.

Amrein-Beardsley concluded:

In reality, how these states performed post-implementation is not much different from random, or a flip of the coin. As such, these results should speak directly to other states already, or considering, investing human and financial resources in such state-level, test-based accountability policies.

In short, this is a costly and useless school reform policy that benefits no one.

The National Assessment Governing Board, the federal agency in charge of the NAEP assessments, is aware that the achievement levels (Basic, Proficient, Advanced) are being misused. They are considering tinkering with the definitions of the levels. NAGB has invited the public to express its views. Below is my letter. If you want to weigh in, please write to and Responses must be received by September 30.

My letter:

Dear NAEP Achievement-Level-Setting Program,

As a former member of the National Assessment Governing Board, I am keenly interested in the improvement and credibility of the NAEP program.

I am writing to express my strong support for a complete rethinking of the NAEP “achievement levels.” I urge the National Assessment Governing Board to abandon the achievement levels, because they are technically unsound and utterly confusing to the public and the media. They serve no purpose other than to mislead the public about the condition of American education.

The achievement levels were adopted in 1992 for political reasons: to make the schools look bad, to convey simplistically to the media and the public that “our schools are failing.”

The public has never understood the levels. The media and prominent public figures regularly report that any proportion of students who score below “NAEP proficient” is failing, which is absurd. The two Common Core-aligned tests (PARCC and SBAC) adopted “NAEP Proficient” as their passing marks, and the majority of students in every state that use these tests have allegedly “failed,” because the passing mark is out of reach, as it will always be.

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has stated clearly that “Proficient is not synonymous with grade level performance.” Nonetheless, public figures like Michelle Rhee (who was chancellor of the DC public schools) and Campbell Brown (founder of the website “The 74”) have publicly claimed that the proficiency standard of NAEP is the bar that ALL students should attain. They have publicly stated that American public education is a failure because there are many students who have not reached NAEP proficient.

In reality, there is only one state in the nation–Massachusetts–where as much as 50% of students have attained NAEP Proficient. No state has reached 100% proficient, and no state ever will.

When I served on NAGB for seven years, the board understood very well that proficient was a high bar, not a pass-fail mark. No member of the board or the staff expected that some day all students would attain “NAEP Proficient.” Yet critics and newspaper consistently use NAEP proficient as an indicator that “all students” should one day reach. This misperception has been magnified by the No Child Left Behind Act, which declared in law that all students should be “proficient” by the year 2014.

Schools have been closed, and teachers and principals have been fired and lost their careers and their reputations because their students were not on track to reach an impossible goal.

As you well know, panels of technical experts over the years have warned that the achievement levels were not technically sound, and that in fact, they are “fatally flawed.” They continue to be “fatally flawed.” They cannot be fixed because they are in fact arbitrary and capricious. The standards and the process for setting them have been criticized by the General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Sciences, and expert psychometricians.

Whether using the Angoff Method or the Bookmarking Method or any other method, there is no way to set achievement levels that are sound, valid, reliable, and reasonable. If the public knew that the standards are set by laypersons using their “best judgment,” they would understand that the standards are arbitrary. It is time to admit that the standard-setting method lacks any scientific validity.

When they were instituted in 1992, their alleged purpose was to make NAEP results comprehensible to the general public. They have had the opposite effect. They have utterly confused the public and presented a false picture of the condition and progress of American education.

As you know, when Congress approved the achievement levels in 1992, they were considered experimental. They have never been approved by Congress, because of the many critiques of their validity by respected authorities.

My strong recommendation is that the board acknowledge the fatally flawed nature of achievement levels. They should be abolished as a failed experiment.

NAGB should use scale scores as the only valid means of conveying accurate information about the results of NAEP assessments.

Thank you for your consideration,

Diane Ravitch
NAGB, 1997-2004
New York University


The National Superintendents Roundtable wrote a letter.

I urge you to read this here.

The letter documents the many scholarly studies criticizing the NAEP achievement levels.

Here is an excerpt:

“NAGB hired a team of evaluators in 1990 to study the process involved in developing the three levels. A year later the evaluators were fired after their draft report concluded that the process “must be viewed as insufficiently tested and validated, politically dominated, and of questionable credibility.”

“In 1993, the U.S. General Accounting Office labeled the standard-setting process as “procedurally flawed” producing results of “doubtful accuracy.”

“In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences reported the achievement-level setting procedures were flawed: “difficult and confusing . . . internally inconsistent . . . validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking . . . and the process has produced unreasonable results.”

“Shortly after No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2001, Robert Linn, past president of the American Educational Association and of the National Council on Measurement in Education, and former editor of the Journal of Educational Measurement called the “target of 100% proficient or above according to the NAEP standards is more like wishful thinking than a realistic possibility.”

“In 2007, researchers concluded that fully a third of high school seniors who completed calculus, the best students with the best teachers in the country, could not clear the proficiency bar. Moreover, they added, fully 50 percent of those who scored “basic” in twelfth grade math had achieved a bachelor’s degree (a proportion comparing favorably with four-year degree rates at public universities).

“The Buros Institute, named after the father of Mental Measurements Yearbook, criticized the lack of a validity framework for NAEP assessment scores in 2009 and recommending continuing “to explore achievement level methodologies.”

“Fully 30 percent of 12th-graders who completed calculus were deemed to be less than proficient, said a Brookings Institution scholar in 2016, a figure that jumped to 69 percent for pre-calculus students and 92 percent for students who completed trigonometry and Algebra I. These data “defy reason” and “refute common sense,” he concluded.

“Finally, the NAS study to which the proposed rule responds took note in 2016 of the “controversy and disagreement around the achievement levels, noting that Congress has insisted since 1994 that the achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis until on objective evaluation determined them to be “reasonable, reliable, valid, and informative to the public.”

“In the Roundtable’s judgment, such an objective evaluation has yet to be completed and a determination that the achievement levels are “reasonable, reliable, valid, and informative to the public” has yet to be seen.

“Linking studies conclude most students in most nations cannot clear “proficiency” bar

“The Roundtable points also to research studies dating from 2007 to 2018 indicating NAEP’s proficiency bar is beyond the reach of most students in most nations. When Gary Phillips of the American Institutes of Research (and former Acting Commissioner of NCES) asked how students in other nations would perform if their international assessment results were expressed in terms of NAEP achievement levels, his results were sobering. The results demonstrated that just three nations (Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Japan) would have a majority of their students clear the NAEP bar in 8th-grade mathematics, while Singapore alone could meet that standard (more than 50% of students clearing the bar) in science.

“Subsequently Hambleton, Sireci, and Smith (2007) and also Lim and Sireci (2017) reached conclusions similar to those of Phillips.”

The fact is that “NAEP proficiency” is an impossible goal for most students. To recognize that does not lower standards. It acknowledges common sense.

Not every runner will ever run a four-minute mile. Some will. Most wont.


Leonie Haimson points out that, despite much boasting, New York City and New York State have made no gains on NAEP from 2013-2017.

What she did not include is a graph showing that New York State’s NAEP scores have been flat from 2003-2017.