D.C.'s NAEP scores: Don't get excited
To hear all the crowing about rising standardized test scores in D.C. public schools, you might think it was the first time that this had happened in the District and that Chancellor Michelle Rhee has worked some sort of minor miracle. It isn’t so.
My colleague Nick Anderson reported on newly released scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that show that fourth-graders in D.C. public schools -- not counting those in the city’s public charter schools -- gained about six points on a 500-point scale from 2007 to 2009. Eighth-graders gained about four points.
Charter school students--who make up 37 percent of the city’s population of 75,000 public students -- didn’t do so well; scores for D.C. charter schools showed no significant change in fourth grade and a drop in eighth grade.
For those people who believe that standardized test scores actually indicate something about how well a reform program is doing (I don’t), this is naturally good news for Rhee on all counts.
The numbers are going up for the city's traditional public schools but not in charter schools, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan is promoting with all of his might. Since charter school advocates like to cite test scores when they look good for their institutions, it’s only fair to note when they don’t.
D.C. scores are still way below the national average, and Rhee herself noted that “we still have a ridiculously long way to go.”
That’s been true for years, of course. But what is also true is that this is not the first time that NAEP scores have risen in the District. They were increasing long before Rhee arrived in the District in 2007.
Why does NAEP matter in the standardized testing world? Because it is considered the gold standard of standardized assessments and the only such test that is given in districts nationwide.
You can see the rise in the District's NAEP scores over time on the website of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP. Here’s the link. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/
For example, here is the trajectory for average scores for fourth grade math.
The 2009 scores include traditional public and public charter school students, so the average scores will look different from the ones above.
Also, note that in the years that are starred, accommodations for special education students were not allowed. In the unstarred years, they were. In a few years, scores with and without accommodations were posted.
Fourth grade math:
Math was never my subject, but it looks to me like there was a 13-point jump in scores from 2000-2003, then another 6-point jump from 2003-2005, and then another 3-point jump from 2005-2007. Under Rhee's tenure, there was a 5-point jump.
None of these increases are huge, considering that a 5-point jump is 1 percent on the 500-point scale, but the biggest jumps happened long before Rhee arrived.
One might choose to argue that the older scores don’t include charter school students, but don't forget that they didn’t improve on the latest NAEP tests. Do you wonder what all those other superintendents were doing to produce their increased scores?
Before I give you the rest of the scores, I’ll just note this: We need to be very careful about making too much out of these, or any standardized test scores. Average scores go up and they go down and they go up and down again. That’s the nature of testing.
We imbue these scores with big meaning at our own peril.
Here are some other average scores:
8th grade reading:
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| May 20, 2010; 7:31 PM ET
Categories: D.C. Schools, Math, Reading, Standardized Tests | Tags: D.C. schools and NAEP, D.C. scores rise, Michelle rhee, NAEP scores, TUDA and D.C., TUDA scores, rhee and schools, rhee and scores
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