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Monday, April 23, 2012

You are being lied to about student performance in U.S. schools

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011:
1. NAEP is considered to be the authoritative measurement of student performance by the National Center for Educational Statistics, Department of Education: 209,000 fourth graders and 175,000 in every state.
2. NAEP is designed to be substantially comparable from year to year. By test design defined by specific skills, higher scores from year to year represent actual improvement.
3. A gain of 10 points is considered to be roughly equivalent to one grade level.
4. In Reading, scores for all 4th Graders improved between 1994 and 2011 by 8 points (almost a full grade level), and the improvement for all 8th Graders was 5 points in the same period (about half a grade level).
5. In Math, scores for all 4th Graders improved between 1996 and 2011 by 17 points (over 1.5 grade levels), and all 8th Graders improved in the same period by 14 points (almost 1.5 grade levels.
6. The NAEP does not support the common wisdom pushed by major media and some politicians, including the Obama administration, that schools are not making progress. In fact, that common narrative is directly contradicted by the single most reliable testing we have: rather than regression, there have been substantial gains in both subjects at both grade levels. The progress in Math in particular has been extraordinary, with the average 4th Grader, for example, performing in 2011 at roughly same level as a student midway through 6th Grade in 1996 (and with nearly the same advancement by 8th Graders in the same period).
7. Black 4th Graders improved in Reading between 1994 and 2011 by 20 points (approximately two grade levels) compared to a 7 point gain in Reading by white 4th Graders, and in Math by 26 points (or about 2.5 grade levels) compared to a 17 point gain by white 4th Graders.
8. Black 8th Graders improved in Reading between 1996 and 2011 by 13 points compared to 7 points by white 8th Graders, and in Math by 22 points compared to 12 points for white 8th graders.
9. Accordingly, based on the NAEP as the primary source of nationally-comparable data on American education, it is clear from Nos. 8 and 9 above that the common wisdom perpetuated by the major media that black students are not significantly closing the gap with white students is false. In fact, the gap has narrowed significantly since the mid-90s.
Based on the foregoing, the question is this: why is the country being lied to about the real state of American education? Ah, the international data. We all know what that says, right? Wrong. More to follow on that later.

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