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New NAEP Math and Reading Scores Leave Me Longing for More Reform

The elections are over. I’m out from underneath the rock. It’s nice to see the sunshine again, to see that Amendment 66 was rejected (let’s think Kids Are First instead), and the reform message carried many major school board races.

Time to shift gears, though, with the release of 2013 results from NAEP, the nation’s gold-standard test. The overall picture, as reported by Education Week‘s Catherine Gewertz, is not too encouraging:

Larger shares of students reached the “proficient” level in 2013 than did so in 2011, and achievement was far higher than when the tests were first given in the early 1990s. But the numbers still painted a less-than-rosy picture of American academic strength: In grade 4, only 42 percent of students are proficient in math, and 35 percent are proficient in reading. In grade 8, 36 percent are proficient in reading and math.

The pace of growth has slowed nationally, but a few states and localities are on the right trajectory. Education Week and education policy guru Matt Ladner both pointed out that Washington, D.C., and Tennessee easily showed the most progress since the last test in 2011. Indiana, Washington, Hawaii, and Florida also made significant gains.

Looking back 10 years, D.C. also stands at the head of the pack for long-term gains on 3 of the 4 tests. Of note, both D.C. and Tennessee have done some of the most aggressive revamping of educator evaluation systems.

What about Colorado, inquiring readers may ask? Following a prevalent trend, fourth-graders showed small improvements while eighth-graders held steady. Progress on the math and reading assessments combined fell short of the national average. More a call to roll up the sleeves than to get too pumped up about election outcomes.

Overall, I second the comments offered by Center for Education Reform president Kara Kerwin:

All students can learn and be proficient if we create policies that are centered on them, proven and transformational. Scholarship programs, charters, blended learning or whatever parents and educators choose — innovations in how education is delivered must be embraced.

It is time to change the power of who drives these decisions and how it is led. Our nation must accelerate the pace of reform in order to become competitive in the global market once again. The stagnant results of NAEP should make us all much more uncomfortable perpetuating excuses. [Link added]

Are you with me? Let’s get back out there and make the case.