Fl’s 8th-grade math scores on national test fall, follow national dip

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Math, reading scores slip for nation’s school kids.

Reading and math scores decreased slightly in Georgia and remain mostly below U.S. averages, with students struggling to improve understanding of the core subjects, according to 2015 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Results from exams given to a cross section of fourth-and eighth-graders nationally showed Louisiana lagging the nation in terms of proficiency in subject matter – with improvements in some areas and declines in others.Math scores slipped for fourth and eighth graders over the last two years, and reading grades were not much better, flat for fourth graders and lower for eighth graders, according to the 2015 Nation’s Report Card.

On the heels of tepid results from California’s new standardized tests, another set of scores from a national exam show a dip in student achievement — locally, in the state and across the country. NAEP is often called the nation’s report card because it is the only measure of student achievement given periodically to a sampling of students around the nation. The results for 2015 show that, while Louisiana fourth-graders’ performance improved, only 29 percent of them were deemed proficient in reading – 6 percentage points lower than the national score. It is seen by many as a high-quality test though it has many critics, too, some of whom say that the NAEP definition of “proficiency” is unnaturally high, and that the test cannot measure many of the qualities students must develop to be successful.

The percentage of San Diego fourth-graders who performed at or above the national proficient level in math was 31 percent this year, down from 42 percent in 2013. For this year’s test, fourth-grade students’ math scores fell two points, and the eighth-graders’ by three points, compared with the exam taken in 2013. Thirty percent of fourth-graders were considered proficient at math, compared to 39 percent of students nationally; Only 18 percent of eighth-graders achieved proficiency in math – 14 percentage points below the national figure.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged parents, teachers, and others not to panic about the scores as states embrace higher academic standards, such as Common Core. “We should expect scores in this period to bounce around some, and I think that ‘implementation dip’ is part of what we’re seeing here,” Duncan said in a phone call with reporters. “I would caution everyone to be careful about drawing conclusions … anyone who claims to have this all figured out is pedaling a personal agenda, rather than an educational one.” Reacting to the scores, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said one year’s worth of data shouldn’t send the nation’s schools and teachers off in a different direction. “Having the higher academic standards caused the states and teachers and districts to change the way they’re teaching certain things,” Minnich said in an interview. “We may be in a place where some of the questions that are asked on this national test aren’t being taught at the same time they were being taught before.” The Common Core standards were developed by the states with the support of the administration. My Post colleague Emma Brown reports in this story that math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States dropped this year, the first time since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990. The Louisiana Department of Education’s analysis of the figures shows the state moving up in its overall NAEP ranking in fourth-grade reading proficiency from 50th in 2009 to 43rd this year. They spell out what students should know in English and math at each grade level, with a focus on critical thinking and less of an emphasis on memorization.

Reading scores weren’t much better; eighth-grade scores dropped while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time the test was administered. The District of Columbia also showed increases in both. “It’s good news for our state,” state Superintendent Carey Wright said. “It’s obviously not where we want to be, but this is significant progress and we can’t ignore that.” As is true nationwide, there remains a significant gap between the scores of black and white students in Mississippi. State education officials were particularly concerned about the four-point drop in fourth-grade math, and planned to refocus efforts on getting students better prepared in “foundational” work, increasing literacy efforts at an early age so students are better able to read and comprehend math and reading. “These results underscore the importance of strengthening our students’ foundational skills in reading and math,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods in a released statement. “At the state level, we’re committed to supporting districts in that work by producing better resources for teachers, fully vetting any new standards and initiatives, and providing greater flexibility so schools have room to innovate.” The NAEP tests are viewed as a credible national measure of academic progress.

School reformers who have touted NAEP score increases in the past as evidence of their success are now trying to spin the newest results as anything but their the failure of their reforms. In response, state education leaders have sought to increase the rigor of statewide standardized tests to make them more in line with national standardized tests like NAEP and the SAT college entrance exam. Reading scores increased in five urban districts and decreased in three urban districts in at least one grade. “One downturn does not a trend make,” said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. “Try not to read too much into it at this point. Minnesota generally does well on the NAEP test, even though the trend-monitoring test is broader than Minnesota state standardized exams, said Michael Rodriguez, a professor of educational measurement at the University of Minnesota.

Wright said she thought the focus on literacy in early grades was one factor, but said she thought teacher training and Mississippi’s Common Core-derived standards also helped. She is also the head of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, an organization co-founded by Diane Ravitch that works to support the improvement of public education. Wright said that although much of the attention had gone to improving reading, she said the state has been working to improve math instruction as well. A problem with the demographic make-up of the testing sample may have contributed to San Diego’s decrease in math scores because it included disproportionately fewer whites and more English learners and poor students. During the 1970s and ’80s, at the height of school desegregation efforts, the gap in scores between our nation’s white and black students dramatically narrowed.

Some are blaming demographic changes (which conveniently ignores the drop in white student scores on 3 of the 4 tests), while others are attributing the stagnation to the economy (which was far worse in 2011).

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