Math, Reading Scores Slip for Nation’s School Kids

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Math scores are slipping among American students, nationwide test shows.

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.CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The latest batch of national assessment tests shows New Hampshire students remaining among the highest achievers in math and reading.The national drop in math performance seen today in the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress – the first decline after 20 years of a steady climb — has triggered a lot of fretting and speculating on why scores faltered.

The carefully culled sampling of students in 50 states and 20 urban areas performed no better on the reading component, with scores flat in fourth grade and two points lower in eighth grade. Education officials told the New York Times that the unexpected setback in mathematics could be related to changes in Common Core standards at the state level—a matter of great debate around the country. Designed as a “common metric for all states and selected urban districts,” the NAEP is given to students all over the country across all demographic groups. 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. Because it’s administered to so many different students in so many different places, and because its content has remained fairly consistent, the NAEP—which is also called the “Nation’s Report Card”—is considered an invaluable yardstick for gauging student achievement over the decades.

In the NAEP test, questions for fourth-graders related to data analysis, statistics and geometry may not have been covered in class because they are not part of the Common Core, the publication noted as an example. In a statement, Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said, “These results underscore the importance of strengthening our students’ foundational skills in reading and math. But they have become a rallying point for critics who want a smaller federal role in education and some parents confounded by some of the new concepts being taught.

Unlike most standardized tests, the NAEP assessments are generally quick, completed in about an hour, impossible to game, and reported anonymously, so they’re completely without stakes. The NAEP tests don’t align completely with Common Core, but NAEP officials said there was “quite a bit” of overlap between the tests and college-ready standards. —36 percent of fourth graders were at or above the proficient level in reading, about the same as 2013. There was no significant change in the achievement gap for reading between white students and their black peers, but there was a small narrowing in the gap between white fourth-graders and black contemporaries in regards math.

He pointed to Massachusetts, which saw a drop in test scores after raising standards two decades ago, before becoming a consistently high-achieving state. “This is the ultimate long-term play,” he said. Peggy Carr, a developmental psychologist and the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test, admitted that the lower scores came as a surprise. “This isn’t a pattern that we saw coming,” Carr said, calling the scores an “unexpected downturn.” Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan did his best to give the lower scores a positive spin, fending off the inevitable criticisms that his test-obsessed policies are responsible for the decline by telling reporters that “big change never happens overnight. In Washington state, this year’s results, compared with results in 2013, showed average incremental losses of a few points in eighth-grade math and reading scores and fourth-grade math scores.

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). For those of us who had first row seats to the disruption and chaos they have caused, we have one simple message—no excuses These results are quite disappointing and shouldn’t be sugar-coated. I wouldn’t be surprised if these results led to renewed repeal efforts for both the standards and the assessments in a number of states, even if there is, as yet, no evidence that these policies are harmful. I would like to add one topic to the mix: In Georgia and throughout the nation, we have changed our expectations for what our kids need to know and be able to do in mathematics.

Even in my local Georgia system where dual Ph.D parents expect their kids prepared for the likes of Stanford and Duke, I hear complaints about the amount of homework and the stress on kids from juggling soccer, schoolwork and social life. Many parents believe high school ought to be fun and teens should not have to study two or three hours a night and on weekends to earn top grades. (If you search out IB discussions online, you will find many students consider three hours of homework the norm.) I go back to what a noted mathematician said to me: Math is hard. I recently talked to three college exchange students, two from Asia and one from Europe, about the differences they see in their American classmates in their math and science programs.

When higher math standards were first being discussed in Georgia, many middle school math teachers, surveyed by the state DOE, said they were unprepared to teach to the higher standards. Also, we have to ask whether we’ve made the case to students themselves on why elevated math standards are vital and worth their time and commitment.

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