An Indiana teacher has been named to a national governing board that oversees a critical exam used for decades to gauge the academic progress of American students.

Dale Nowlin, a high school math teacher in Columbus, was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the 26-member National Assessment Governing Board. The board oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP and often referred to as The Nation’s Report Card.

Nowlin has been a teacher since 1979 and worked at Bartholomew Consolidated Schools since 1985. He is the math department chairman at North High School and Northside Middle School. Nowlin teaches at Indiana University as an adjunct professor.

Among the awards Nowlin has won are the national and state Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. He has assisted with NAEP as a member of the governing board’s assessment development committee, which met in Columbus in May.

Dale Nowlin
Dale Nowlin

Indiana fourth graders made big gains in reading and math on the last NAEP exam.

The state’s 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. At eighth grade there were smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test-takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered.

The state’s success renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008. Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

In a statement, Nowlin praised student test scores gains on NAEP across the country in recent years but said more could be done to help student “subgroups” with barriers to learning, such as poor children, English language learners and kids in special education, to do better.

“One challenge that still remains for educators, for school districts, and for policymakers is to close the achievement gaps that exist among the subgroups,” he said. “This challenge becomes an even greater issue when you consider the changing demographics of our nation.”

Since 1969, NAEP has played an important role in evaluating the condition and progress of American education. The board determines subjects and content to be tested, sets achievement levels for reporting and releases the results to the public.

Recently the Boston-based nonprofit group Achieve Inc., issued a report critical of Indiana’s ISTEP test for not expecting enough of Hoosier students. Indiana was cited as having one of the biggest gaps between the percentage of students who score “proficient” on NAEP and the percent who pass the state test.

Visit the Nation’s Report Card here. To learn more about a board member reappointed from Tennessee, read our sister site, Chalkbeat Tennessee.