The results of student achievement in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the so-called “nations report card” released last November, were characterized as “encouraging” and “the strongest performance in the history of the NAEP” by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. What he conveniently overlooks is that substantially all of the progress in reading and math between 2000 and 2013 was made in the period 2000-2009, before the Obama administration took office. And in closing the white-black achievement gap, the comparison is more pronounced–with fourth graders the gap narrowed by 6 points in math and 10 points in reading during 2000-2009 versus no change in the reading gap over the past four years and a one point widening of the gap in math.
For me, however, what is most instructive in the report are the truly encouraging results in Washington, D. C. and the states of Tennessee and Indiana, all of which are pioneering in the measurement of growth in student achievement as a component of educator evaluation, compensation, and continuing employment; advancing charter school expansion; and remaining strongly committed to other elements of accountability for student learning.
Alas, I wish this were more the case in Texas, where we had made consistent progress in NAEP scores across all racial and ethnic groups for 20 years through 2011, along with consistent closing of the white-minority gaps. Unfortunately, in 2013, all groups were in decline and have in essence been flat since 2005. To those of us in the reform movement, this is particularly disappointing, because we fear that there will be a correlation between these results and the recent trend toward the weakening of the state’s commitment to leadership in standards and accountability-based reform. And the price for this lack of fidelity will be borne primarily by our most vulnerable kids.