The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were released on October 30, and as expected they were followed by a volley of exclamations about failing schools–all based on a false premise of what the scores reflect. The NAEP, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” has long been misused by politicians and education “reform” pundits, while seasoned education officials take a more balanced stance on the results, viewing them as a somewhat useful tool to measure progress, but not something to go bonkers over either way if scores rise or fall by a point or two.
In brief, national reading scores for both 4th and 8th graders fell two points, while math scores fell one point for 8th graders and rose one point for 4th graders. In Texas, 4th graders did better in math than the last assessment in 2017, while 4th-grade reading scores had a small decline, with a more significant decline in 8th-grade reading scores (the latter of which mirrored results in most states). You can read the Texas Education Agency’s take on our state scores here, including what TEA highlighted in the state’s mixed bag of results:
“Texas African American, Hispanic, and Anglo students performed in the top 10 nationally in 4th grade math, with African American students ranking first among their peers in all states.”
Speaking of “bonkers,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos used the drop in national reading scores to proclaim: “Our Nation’s Report Card shows that two thirds of American students can’t read at grade level. Two out of three!” And then she barraged the media with the message that we need to privatize more schools and offer more “school choice.”
Fortunately, enough analysts and good reporters have witnessed the biannual release and the hysteria from some misanalyzing it to correctly point out that the NAEP scores do not measure grade-level reading, nor does the test even have a standard meaning for “proficiency.”
- Here’s an excellent analysis from the Valarie Strauss in the Washington Post: “The common mistake Betsy DeVos made about new NAEP scores — and other problems with her ‘sky is falling’ narrative”
- And for a look at the many things the NAEP is not useful for, see: The One And Only Lesson To Be Learned From NAEP Scores