Arne [HEART] raising standards: "Suppose They Gave A War and Nobody Came?"
It was a 1970 feature film, in the street-fighting days of yore. Then it became a bromide.
This week, they released the new Naep scores and nobody came, at least not the New York Times. The scores in question are the scores from last year's testing.
By all accounts, these are our most reliable, most significant public school test scores. But over and over, again and again, it's quite clear that nobody cares.
In fairness, it isn't true that nobody came or that nobody cares. In Tuesday morning's Washington Post, a report on the new Naep scores appeared in the Metro, or local, section.
The Post placed its focus on DC-area scores. That said, the Post report started like this:
STEIN, ST. GEORGE AND TRUONG (4/10/18): The Washington region's fourth- and eighth-graders made no substantial gains on national math and reading tests in 2017—stagnant outcomes that mirrored results from across the country on a test administered by the federal government.From that point on, the Post report focused on results from Washington-area school districts. (Meanwhile, please note: "proficiency" is a subjective assessment. The Naep sets a fairly high bar.)
The scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) highlight a persistent achievement gap between white and minority students and show just how difficult it can be to boost student achievement on standardized tests.
NAEP, which is often referred to as the "nation's report card," is considered a critical barometer of student achievement because it assesses the performance of children from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds in urban, suburban and rural communities. The government first administered the exam in the 1990s, and it tests fourth- and eighth-graders every other year.
Nationally, 36 percent of fourth-graders were considered proficient in reading and 40 percent reached this threshold in math on the 2017 exam, according to data released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. Thirty-six percent of eighth-graders were considered proficient in reading, and 34 percent in math.
According to the Post, the Naep "is considered a critical barometer of student achievement." That's true, but it's been three days since these new scores were released, and the New York Times hasn't yet breathed a word.
Based on what the Post has reported, it sounds like national averages didn't show growth last year, as compared to scores from 2015. Combined with lackluster results in 2015, this starts to establish a stagnant trend, after previous decades of growth.
At some point, the Times will probably get around to dispensing the skinny concerning these new results. For now, the paper seems to be transfixed by The Chase.
(According to today's page A3 in the Times, "seven of Wednesday's 10 most read articles dealt with the raid [on Michael Cohen's locales] or on its aftermath." The excitement of The Chase is what the public demands.)
We'll close on a cynical note:
When we read that Naep scores were stagnant again, we conjured a cynical thought. This may explain Arne Duncan's column in last week's Washington Post, we incomparably thought.
Arne wrote a rather illogical column attributing the nation's large score gains to the wonders of education reform. He dated the gains to 1971, when overall Naep testing began.
(Ignore the contrary claim by the Post in the passage posted above.)
Here's where the illogic comes in. The gains had been happening all along, dating to 1971. But Arne largely attributed the gains to relatively recent "reforms."
A cynical thought popped into our heads when we saw the Post's report about the mediocre new scores:
Arne knew that mediocre test score news was in the offing. As a propagandist, he wanted to get out ahead of the storm, before people began to say that modern-day "education reform" has produced a disappointing era of stagnant achievement. (This is pure speculation, of course.)
At some point in the next few weeks, we'll run through the overall look of the new Naep scores. By that time, the New York Times may even have noticed the arrival of these results from "the nation's report card."
Before we do that, we'll be returning to Arne's column to consider one more point:
In his column, Arne praised the toughening of the different states' grade-by-grade "learning standards." ("A decade ago, learning standards were all over the place. Today, almost every state has raised standards.")
Now that we all can see that these changes have coincided with an era of stagnant scores, we want to review, one more time, the fairly obvious logical problem with this widely-lauded element of "reform."
What could be wrong with "raising standards?" Complete with some truly gruesome statistics, we'll discuss that fairly obvious point in the next day or so.