For the first time since 1990, the mathematical skills of American students have dropped, according to results of a nationwide test released by the Education Department on Wednesday.The decline appeared in both Grades 4 and 8 in an exam administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and sometimes called “the nation’s report card.”
The dip in scores comes as the country’s employers demand workers with ever-stronger skills in mathematics to compete in a global economy. It also comes as states grapple with the new Common Core academic standards and a rebellion against them.
Progress in reading, which has been generally more muted than in math for decades, also stalled this year as scores among fourth graders flat-lined and eighth-grade scores decreased. The exams assess a representative sampling of students on math and reading skills in public and private schools.
And of course reformers have all sorts of excuses for why the scores dropped:
“It’s obviously bad news,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education policy group in Washington. “We don’t want to see scores going in this direction.”“That doesn’t mean we should completely freak out,” he added. “This could be a one-time variation, and maybe we’ll see things come back next time. But if it were the beginning of a new trend, it would be quite disappointing and disturbing.”
“It’s not unusual when you see lots of different things happening in classrooms to first see a slight decline before you see improvement,” said William J. Bushaw, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policies and achievement levels for the tests.
Arne Duncan claims there's nothing to worry about here, that the scores indicate nothing about the efficacy of his reform agenda, that his education reform policies will eventually show big dividends on the NAEP in the "long term," but Carol Burris says he's wrong:
It is difficult to see any real growth across the board since 2011, with math scores backsliding to 2009 levels, eighth-grade reading flat for four years, and a small uptick in fourth-grade reading that is not a significant increase from 2013, which, in turn, was not significantly different from 2011.
Considering that the rationale for the Common Core State Standards initiative was low NAEP proficiency rates, it would appear that the solution of tough standards and tough tests is not the great path forward after all. For those who say it is too early to use NAEP to judge the Common Core, I would remind them that in 2013, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used NAEP increases to do a victory dance about the states that had already implemented the Core at that time—and I never heard any reformer complain.
Two years ago, Duncan attributed Tennessee’s, Hawaii’s and the District of Columbia’s NAEP score increases to their enthusiastic adoption of Race to the Top. Likewise, he attributed increases in Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina to their early embrace of the Common Core.
This year, the District of Columbia and Mississippi had fourth-grade score gains in mathematics, but the rest of Duncan’s superstars had mathematics scores that dropped or were flat. All of Arne’s superstar states had eighth-grade scores that dropped or did not budge.
The District of Columbia, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina had score gains in fourth-grade reading this year, but so did states like Oklahoma and Vermont that have resisted Race to the Top reforms. And in Grade 8 reading, all of Duncan’s superstars had scores that were flat or took a dive.
Colorado, a state that recently received high praise from Bill and Melinda Gates for its implementation of corporate reforms, had reading scores that were flat and math scores that significantly dropped.
NAEP scores were not the only disappointment this year. A few months ago, we saw a significant drop in SAT scores—7 points in one year alone.
Although NAEP and the SAT were not designed to align to the Common Core, they measure what the Common Core Standards were supposed to improve—the literacy and numeracy of our nation’s students. Considering the billions of dollars spent on these reforms, one would expect at least some payoff by now.
As usual with education reformers, there is no accountability for the mess.
Falling SAT and NAEP scores - but hey, it's all good.
Just wait - you'll see improvement in another ten years or so.
Sure we will.