The 2015 NAEP results are out today and there is already discussion about what they mean both state-by-state and nationally.
Here’s what Governor Haslam had to say:
“Today, we’re very excited to say that based on 2015 NAEP results, we’re still the fastest improving state in the nation since 2011. What this means is a new set of fourth- and eighth-graders proved that the gains that we made in 2013 were real.”
That’s pretty strong language. Proved. Governor Haslam said this year’s results proved that the gains seen in 2013 were real.
Here’s what we know: Tennessee remained relatively flat – no significant growth, relatively small decline in reading scores. Basically, we are where we were in 2013.
Here’s what else we know: The entire nation remained relatively flat — no significant growth, some decline in math.
So, here’s what that means: In 2013, Tennessee gained faster than the national average. In exactly one testing cycle. In 2015, Tennessee didn’t do worse than the rest of the country. We also didn’t do better. Like the rest of America, we remained steady.
That is, it’s entirely possible the 2013 gains seen in Tennessee were a one-time occurrence. An outlier.
Had Tennessee again made gains that outpaced the nation, one could say the results suggest something special or different is happening in Tennessee that may be causing the gains. It’s important to be cautious until you have several years of data and more thorough analysis.
It’s also worth noting that states that have adopted aggressive reforms and states that haven’t both remained flat. The general trend was “holding steady,” and it didn’t seem to matter whether your state was using a reform agenda (charters, vouchers, value-added teacher scores in teacher evaluations) or not.
Again, this makes it difficult to suggest that any one or even a package of educational practices drives change.
Was Tennessee’s performance on NAEP in 2013 a blip or an indicator of actual progress? The 2015 results don’t provide much insight.
The good news: Tennessee held steady. The related news: So did everyone else.
I’ll be doing some more digging in to the data to examine trends over time and what more can be learned from 2015. Stay tuned…
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