National Center for Education Statistics

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Teaching & Classroom


Tennessee students lead the nation in growth on NAEP

Tennessee students made some of the largest gains in the country in this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the so-called "nation's report card." Tennessee is "one of the few bright spots" in the NAEP data this year, said Erik Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Most states' scores increased by just one point in 4th and 8th grade math and 4th grade reading and by three points on 8th grade reading between 2011 and 2013. But scores for both 4th and 8th grade students in Tennessee jumped between 4 and 7 points in each of the tested subjects. “It's hard to move the needle on all four grades and subjects unless you're really doing something,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP. In Tennessee, as elected officials planned press conferences today celebrating the increased scores that were released this morning, educators debated what, exactly, may have caused the growth. Both the District of Columbia and Tennessee schools have been home to dramatic reforms in teacher compensation and evaluation in recent years, and were among the early adopters of policies that tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores. But similar policies are in place around the country now. National Assessment A national representative sample of 342,000 8th graders and 377,000 4th graders took the reading and math tests early this year. More data from the 2013 tests, including national scores for 12th graders in reading and math, will be released in the coming months. Individual schools' and students' scores on NAEP are not publicized. While each state has its own standardized test, each of which has changed over time, the NAEP remains relatively constant and is designed to allow for comparisons to be made between states and over time. State and education leaders use the data to compare where states fall academically and how different groups of students fare within their states. The data are also frequently used to make claims about national education progress compared to other countries, with some experts saying, for instance, that low NAEP scores are a threat to national security. On the 2013 test, Tennessee students made the largest gains in the country in 4th and 8th grade reading. Tennessee 4th and 8th graders' math test score gains outpaced every state except for the District of Columbia. Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools were the only jurisdictions that saw increases in both tested subjects in both tested grades. (See chart below for more detail.)   Tennessee leads the nation in growth, but big disparities remain | Infographics Referendum on Reforms?
New York

Feds correct Klein on how to talk about the achievement gap

A statistic that Joel Klein, Al Sharpton, and Mort Zuckerman have all recently employed to bemoan the racial achievement gap appears to be wrong. Here's the statistic, as Klein and Sharpton recently summarized in the Wall Street Journal (and Mort Zuckerman used it here): "today the average 12th-grade black or Hispanic student has the reading, writing and math skills of an eighth-grade white student." The problem isn't the principle behind the claim; America definitely has a racial achievement gap. The problem, according to an official at the National Center for Education Statistics, is in the specific way that Klein et al describe the gap. The best available measure we have to compare all American kids is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the NAEP test. But the NAEP test, which is given only to a sample of students across the country, not to every child, does not permit the kind of detailed comparison Klein's statistic would demand, Arnold Goldstein, the NCES official, said. "It would be great if we could. It's kind of frustrating not to be able to make these sorts of statements," said Goldstein, who is program director for design, analysis, and reporting at NCES's assessment division. "But that’s a limitation of the data." I contacted the Department of Education several times for comment but got no response this week. UPDATE: A spokesman, Andrew Jacob, wrote to say that Klein got the statistic from "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning," a book by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom.