The Lesson of NAEP

Educator and blogger Peter Greene offers his insight on what we can (and can’t) learn from NAEP in Forbes:

That’s the one actual lesson of NAEP; the dream of data-informed, data-driven decision making as a cure for everything that ails us is just a dream. Data can be useful for those who want to actually look at it. But data is not magical, and in education, it’s fruitless to imagine that data will settle our issues.

This is akin to the saying: “You don’t make a pig fatter by weighing it more often.”

What about those big gains in Mississippi? Greene notes:

Mississippi in 2015 joined the states that held back students who could not pass a third grade reading test, meaning those low-scoring students would not be in fourth grade to take NAEP test. It would be like holding back all the shorter third graders and then announcing that the average height of fourth graders has increased.

And, he also points out that Betsy DeVos took a shot at the very reforms she advocated:

DeVos singled out Detroit as an example of failed policies, yet the policies that have failed in Detroit are largely those reform policies that she herself pushed when she was an education reform activist in Michigan.

Is “reform” working? Do we need more “disruption” as Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee suggests?

In all discussions, it’s useful to remember that the increases or decreases being discussed are small– a difference of just a few points up or down. NAEP scores have shown neither a dramatic increase or decrease, but a sort of dramatic stagnation. That is arguably worse news for education reformers, who have been promising dramatic improvements in student achievement since No Child Left Behind became the law almost twenty years ago.

The short answer: No. The new tests (TNReady), the charters, the vouchers… none of it is making a dent in the underlying issues driving the stagnation Greene notes. Yes, there is useful information to be gleaned from the data, but it’s probably time to calm down and focus on what matters: making life (and school) better for kids.

The thing is: We know what to do, we just don’t seem to want to do it. Instead, we can talk about NAEP and gains and the need to improve and the difference between NAEP scores and state test scores and then feel like we’ve done something.

Still, too many kids show up to school hungry. Too many families don’t have access to adequate healthcare. Tennessee’s current Commissioner of Education notes:

“If we’re looking at proficiency by student group over time, the large increase in 2013 was largely from our white and non-low income students,” she said, calling for more support for economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

The question, then, is what will Governor Bill Lee and the General Assembly do with this data? Continue to ignore it as past Governors and legislators have? Ask for more data? Add more tests? Contract with a testing company that promises results that justify the reforms Lee likes? Enact vouchers in spite of mountains of evidence against the efficacy of such programs?

I predict there will be a demand for more weighing of the pig.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Your support$5 or more today — makes publishing education news possible.

One thought on “The Lesson of NAEP

  1. Yes they DO know how to educate the brightest students in the world but that truth is they do not want to educate students any longer. They are more interested in training workers for the global planned economy and to create good loyal dependent followers of the state. You cannot control people if you truly educate people. So they have been dumbing down America for decades and it is finally paying off for them. DeVos agreed to support the UN 17 SDGs which is basically bringing more socialism into our classroom. The only way to change a culture and destroy the middle class (which is what makes America strong and wealthy and the UN believes owning property perpetuates poverty). So in other words they do not want any one person to be smarter or more successful than the next person (except for the children of the elite). There is a document created right here in the TN at the U of T Knoxville called Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit (created by a UNESCO crony) that clearly says in order to obtain sustainability we have to basically dumb down people so they don’t make as much money and therefore will use less resources. It is much easier to bring people down than to lift people up and that is exactly what is taking place. No time to teach reading and math but plenty of time to teach how horrible capitalism and America are along with how to have perverted sex at 5 years old. YES they do know how to improve education but that is not the agenda and Charters/Vouchers are all part of the plan to get ALL students learning the same thing and ALL students into the data pipeline. Choice will become choice of location only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.