The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 was released yesterday and presented in a webinar hosted by the National Assessment Governing Board. While the study finds some promising trends in student achievement, there is still work to be done.
The long term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is given every four years to students ages 9, 13, and 17. In 2012, 26,000 students were tested. The good news is that today’s 9- and 13- year-olds are performing at higher levels in reading and math than students the same age in the 1970s.
This is great for the nation as a whole, but at the state level there is still reason for concern. A recent Education Sector report finds a growing achievement gap among the states using main NAEP scores from 2003-2011.
We acknowledge that the main NAEP and long-term NAEP are different and cannot be directly compared. The main NAEP draws its sample from students in grades 4, 8, and 12 and is implemented every two years. The questions measure slightly different skills; and the main NAEP is scored using achievement levels, while the long-term NAEP uses performance levels.
Differences in tests aside, the nation still has a problem. After No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was implemented in 2002, the gap between the lowest-performing state and the highest-performing state has grown to the equivalent of 1.5 years of academic achievement. Fourth-grade students in Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are achieving the same results as students a few months into fifth grade in West Virginia, Iowa, and South Dakota.
The graph below represents progress made on the main NAEP over eight years by students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, an indicator of poverty.
NAEP Composite Scale Score Gains by State, 2003-2011, Grades 4 and 8, Reading and Math, Free-and-Reduced-Priced-Lunch Eligible Students
As evident in the graph, performance across states has been uneven. In the United States, the state you live in should not determine your academic performance in math and reading. Perhaps with a uniform set of standards, like the Common Core, we will begin to narrow this growing gap.