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April 30, 2015

Long-Term but No Short-Term Gains in History, Civics, and Geography, According to NAEP

Classroom Observations Yesterday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the results of the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in History, Civics, and Geography for U.S. 8th graders. Results are provided for the nation as a whole but not for individual states, unlike as they do for the mathematics and reading assessments. Similar to other NAEP assessments, results are given in scale scores (0-500) and achievement levels (Basic, Proficient and Advanced).  Scores are given for overall student performance as well as by race, gender, and income groups.

While scores have remained relatively flat since the last administration in 2010 for each of these subjects, 8th graders in 2014 performed higher than their predecessors a decade or two ago. Much of the growth over the past two decades has been driven by the improving performance of low-performing students. Who for each of the three subjects narrowed the gap between themselves and their high performing peers.

Yet, the same gap narrowing was not typically found when it came to the gap in the percent of black and Hispanic 8th graders reaching NAEP’s Basic Achievement Level relative to their white classmates. While there was some gap narrowing, in most cases gaps have remained relatively unchanged over the past decade or two and those gaps remain quite large in most cases. It is important to keep in mind, though, that because all racial and ethnic groups have improved at relatively the same rate over the past two decades, these racial and ethnic gaps have not significantly changed.

This year’s results may not be worth celebrating but they don’t show any systemic failure either. What they do show is that 8th graders continued to make gradual progress in History, Civics, and Geography over the past two decades despite the increased focus over this time period on math and reading. Unfortunately, there was no significant progress made in recent years. While it could be that improvements will appear in the next iteration of these NAEP assessments, in the meantime policymakers and educators should use these current results to ensure all students are being taught the History, Civics, and Geographic skills they need to obtain a well-rounded education so they can maximize their contribution to society as adults. –Jim Hull

 

The Findings

History

  • Overall scores remained flat since 2010
    • However, 8th graders scored higher in 2014 (267 points) than they did in both 2002 (262 points), and 1994 (259 points).
    • 8th graders are performing nearly a grade level higher in 2014 than they did in 1994.
    • Low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (12 points) between 1994 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile—who gained 4 points.
    • Between 1994 and 2014, 8th graders made significant improvements in three of the four themes assessed—Democracy (13 points), Culture (6 points), and World Role (12 points). They made no significant gains in the Technology theme.
  • There was no change in the percent of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Proficient level since 2010 as well.
    • Just 18 percent of 8th graders scored at or above proficient in 2014, which is not significantly different from 2010.
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 (10 percentage points) scored at or above the proficiency level than 8th graders in 1994.
    • Students at this level should be able to incorporate geographic, technological, and other considerations in their understanding of events and should have knowledge of significant political ideas and institutions. They should also be able to communicate ideas about historical themes while citing evidence from primary and secondary sources to support their conclusions.
  • The percent of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Basic level remained flat as well
    • In 2014 71 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the basic level which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010.
    • Yet, just 61 percent of 8th graders in 1994 scored at or above the basic level.
    • Students scoring at or above this level should also have a beginning understanding of the fundamental political ideas and institutions of American life and their historical origins.
  • All racial/ethnic groups made significant improvements but large gaps remain
    • Eighty-four percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level compared to just 47 percent of black 8th graders and 59 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • However, in 1994 just 70 percent of white, 32 percent of black, and 41 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class
    • Eighty percent of 8th graders said they discuss history in their class at least once a week which is no different from 2010.
    • However, 8th graders in 2014 are more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies/videos, use computers at school for history/social studies, listen to information presented online, and use letters, diaries, or essays written by historical people at least once a week.

 

Civics

  • Overall scores remained relatively unchanged
    • Between 2014 and 2010 scores improved by 3 points but the difference was not statistically significant. Meaning the difference could have happened by chance.
    • However, 8th graders in 2014 performed significantly better (4 points) than 8th graders in both 1998 and 2006.
    • Low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (7 points) between 1998 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile— whose scores did not significantly change.
  • There has been no change in the percentage of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Proficient level since 2010 as well.
    • Less than a quarter (23 percent) of 8th graders scored at or above Proficient in 2014, which has remained relatively the same since 1998.
    • Students at this level should understand and be able to explain the purposes that government should serve, as well as be able to describe events within the United States and other countries that have international consequences.
  • The percent of 8th graders scoring at or above the Basic level remained similar.
    • In 2014, 74 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level, which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010 (72 percent).
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 reached the Basic level than 8th graders in 1998 (70 percent).
    • Students scoring at or above this level should have some understanding of competing ideas about the purpose of government. They should also be able to define government, the Constitution, the rule of law and politics and be able to identify the fundamental principles of American democracy and the documents from which they originated.
  • Gaps exist between white 8th graders and their black and Hispanic classmates.
    • Eighty-six percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level compared to just 55 percent of black 8th graders and 61 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • However, in 1998, 78 percent of white, 49 percent of black, and 44 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
    • White and Hispanic 8th graders had significantly more students reach the Basic level in 2014 than in 1998 (8 and 17 percentage point gains, respectively).
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class.
    • Seventy-nine percent of 8th graders said they discussed civics in their class at least once a week, which is no different from 2010.
    • Eighth graders in 2014 were more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies and use computers at school for social studies.
    • However, they are less likely to discuss current events and take part in role-playing, mock trials, or dramas.

 

Geography

  • Overall scores remain flat.
    • Scores have remained relatively unchanged since 1994.
    • However, low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (7 points) between 1994 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile— for whom there were no significant differences.
  • There has been little change in the percentage of 8th graders reaching the proficiency level.  
    • Twenty-seven percent of 8th graders scored at or above Proficient in 2014, which has remained relatively the same since 1994.
    • Students at this level should possess a fundamental geographic vocabulary; understand geography’s analytical concepts; and solve locational questions requiring integration of information from two or more sources.
  • The percentage of 8th graders scoring at or above the Basic level remained similar.
    • In 2014, three-quarters of 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level, which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010 (74 percent).
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 reached the Basic level than 8th graders in 1994 (71 percent).
    • Students scoring at or above this level should possess fundamental knowledge and vocabulary of concepts relating to patterns, relationships, distance, direction, scale, boundary, site, and situation; solve fundamental locational questions using latitude and longitude and interpret simple map scales.
  • Gaps exist between white 8th graders and their black and Hispanic classmates.
    • Eighty-eight percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the basic level compared to less than half (48 percent) of black 8th graders and 61 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • Yet, in 1994, 81 percent of white, 34 percent of black, and 49 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
    • Gaps narrowed from 1994 to 2014 between black and white students by (7 percentage points) and between Hispanic and white students by 12 percentage points.
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class.
    • Seventy-nine percent of 8th graders said they discussed geography in their class at least once a week, which is no different from 2010.
    • Eighth graders in 2014 were more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies, listen to information presented online, and use computers at school for social studies.

 

For more information on NAEP, check out the Center’s report The Proficiency Debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,Middle school,NAEP,Public education,Report Summary — Jim Hull @ 11:22 am





April 17, 2015

Early education: Profiles from 10 states

Sometimes getting and maintaining a job can be difficult enough for some people in poverty. To further make matters complicated, when these people are parents, they additionally have to care for others, their children, which includes finding a preschool or childcare facility to look after their children during the day. To highlight what some states are doing to ensure high-quality early childhood education, the Center for American Progress recently released a series of snapshots profiling early childhood policies in ten states drawing primarily from the research of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). NIEER compiles and releases an annual record of early childhood programs across the United States and aids in providing a glimpse at preschool across the nation. In its most recent edition, The State of Preschool 2013 report explains that across the US, the average state spending per child is $4,026. Keep this number in mind as each state is highlighted in turn.

Additionally, general trends are reported that may (or perhaps should) alert many readers. For example, 31 states throughout the nation have annual childcare costs that amount to more than annual community college tuition and fees for in-state students.

Although these states (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, & Wisconsin) differ somewhat in both their approach and the quality of their early childhood programming, several findings deserve illumination.

Colorado:

  • For children 6-years-old or younger, 43% live in low-income families.
  • Colorado ranks 37th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,159/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Colorado state preschool programs only meet 6 (out of 10) of NIEER’s benchmarks of (high) quality. Colorado programs could increase quality by requiring preschool teachers to hold a B.A. degree or having preschools offer at least one meal per day, for example.

Florida:

  • Over half (53%) of all children six or younger grow up in low-income households in Florida.
  • Florida ranks 35th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,242/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Florida meets only 3 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Maintaining ratios of 10 children per teacher or less and ensuring that teachers are provided appropriate training and resources are two ways in which these state programs can improve.

Georgia:

  • Fifty-four percent of children less than 6 years of age live in low-income families.
  • Georgia ranks 28th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,599/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Although Georgia meets 8 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality, only 4-year-olds are allowed to enroll in preschool. Opening enrollment to 3-year-olds would be a large step forward in terms of assisting those children most at-risk.

Iowa:

  • Roughly 4 out of 10 children (41%) ages six and younger in Iowa grow up in poverty.
  • Iowa ranks 32nd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,674/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Iowa meets only 6 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Alarmingly, the programs in Iowa only operate for 10 hours per week, having the programs operate on a full-day schedule would likely be a significant improvement for Iowan families.

Michigan:

  • Every other child (50%) under age 6 comes from a low-income family in Michigan.
  • Michigan ranks 18th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($4,452/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Michigan meets 7 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. An example of how Michigan programs can improve is by allowing (and ensuring) preschool teachers at least 15 hours of annual in-service training. Additionally, to address earlier issues related to its limited operating schedule, Michigan increased its preschool program to a full-day schedule. Unfortunately, this resulted in fewer enrollments slot available for children.

North Carolina:

  • North Carolina has 1 of 4 state programs across the US that meet all 10 of NIEER’s benchmarks of quality.
  • North Carolina ranks 13th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($4,960/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Although North Carolina has placed a large investment in its youngest residents, it is not without need. Roughly 54% of North Carolinian families with children ages six or younger are impoverished and greatly benefit from having high-quality early education programs. Unfortunately, these efforts likely only cover the symptoms and do not address any underlying causes for these families being at-risk, although one could argue that perhaps that is not the purpose of early education.

Nevada:

  • Fifty-two percent of Nevadan families with children 6 or younger live in poverty.
  • Nevada ranks 33rd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,397/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Nevada meets only 7 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Nevada programs can seek higher quality implementation through ensuring that all assistant teachers have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) and by providing at least one meal a day to its children.

Ohio:

  • Half of Ohioan families with children 6 or younger are impoverished.
  • Ohio ranks 21st out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,927/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Ohio’s preschool programs meet only 4 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Significant improvements to the state’s early education system will likely be seen if class sizes are kept to below 20 students while maintaining a 1:10 teacher-child ratio. Additionally, requiring teachers to have a B.A. and assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) will help ensure that Ohio children experience the best in early education.

Virginia:

  • Slightly over one-third (36%) of all families with children under six are living in poverty in Virginia.
  • Virginia ranks 23rd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,752/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Virginia meets just 6 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Noticeable improvements will likely be seen if teachers are required to have a B.A. and assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) and if at least one meal was provided to children per day. Additionally, Virginia does not serve 3-year-olds in the state preschool programs and their inclusion would serve as a substantial improvement to the early education system, although considerable increases in funding would likely be necessary.

Wisconsin:

  • Forty-four percent of the families with children six or younger in Wisconsin are considered low-income.
  • Wisconsin ranks 29th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,366/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Wisconsin preschool programs meet only half of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. State programs would see improvements by requiring assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent), maintaining teacher-child ratios of 1:10 or less, and offering screenings and support services related to vision, hearing, and health.





April 16, 2015

Soft skills now, strong foundation later

Last Thursday, U.S. News and World Report published an article that I believe is long overdue and is music to my ears. In it, the article calls attention to the contrasts between early childhood education (i.e., preschool) and the education of children in early childhood (which the article defines as children birth to eight years of age). Moreover, the article calls out the education community for the visible distinction between preschool and elementary school programs, instead suggesting that perhaps an integration, rather than a separation would be beneficial to our nation’s youngest students.

The article continues by highlighting approaches that are increasingly considered and used in preschool classrooms but are not on the radars of many elementary school teachers and administrators. Namely, the higher-order cognitive processes involved in manipulating complex information, sustaining attention during learning and task completion, and inhibiting impulsive responses, collected grouped as executive functioning, deserve considerable focus. Within the developmental and educational psychology literature, strong executive functioning has repeatedly demonstrated close ties to both academic and social achievement, including math achievement and social adjustment. Moreover, as CPE highlights in an upcoming report to be published later this summer, executive functioning seems fundamental for some skills that teachers and administrators might be more familiar with given the current climate regarding college- and career-readiness. Specifically, critical thinking, which is a much desired skill that many children and students are hoped to be able to demonstrate by the time they graduate high school, appears heavily reliant on one’s ability to manipulate complex information and to follow through multi-step problem-solving procedures.

Although the U.S. News and World Report article offered several areas in which childhood educators should address (or rather continue to address beyond just preschool), one which I believe deserves specific recognition is that of social-emotional development. Research shows that children who demonstrate social and emotional competencies, showcased, for example, by being able to regulate one’s emotions and to exhibit prosocial behaviors such as cooperation and sharing rather than aggressive behaviors such as hitting and yelling are generally better adjusted in formal schooling settings (i.e., elementary school) and less likely to be held back in later grades.

Looking forward, I am eager to see more articles such as this that highlight just how important processes such as executive functioning and social and emotional skills are beyond the preschool classroom. –David Ferrier






April 9, 2015

Expanding Learning Time: What you need to know

Deciding to increase the time students spend in school is no easy decision. Although a number of districts across the country have done so in recent years, no two districts did it in the same way. That’s because each district had differing reasons for making such a decision. Furthermore, each district had to make the decision within their own local context. As each district has their own political and resource challenges the must be considered when determining if and how to expand learning time.

Making such a decision can be daunting for school leaders. However, a recent report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) provides valuable information to those considering expanding learning time in their district. For example, the report notes that there are a variety of approaches to expanding learning time such as increasing the school day or year. But learning time can also be expanded by reducing the amount of non-instructional time and adding time for teacher activities that improve instruction. Each approach has its strengths and challenges which CEP details in case studies of 17 low-performing schools across 11 districts.

These case studies confirmed expanding learning time is no easy task but does has its rewards. However, expanding learning time is also quite expensive so district leaders must way the costs with the potential benefits of expanding learning time. The Center for Public Education’s (CPE) Making Time report is a resource for district leaders that provides an overview of what research says about the benefits of the differing approaches to increasing learning time. By considering the likely costs and benefits of expanding learning time district leaders can make a more informed decision on how to best utilize their limited resources to improve student outcomes – Jim Hull






April 3, 2015

Why third grade is a pivotal year for mastering literacy

Earlyliteracy2 We get it. We’re visual creatures. We’re as drawn in by videos and graphics as the next consumer and we’ve made moves to harness the power of imagery in our own work. BUT … you’re reading this aren’t you?

In everyday life, it’s kind of hard to get around without having to read … a menu, an article, an instruction guide, a fill-in-the-blank. And why would you want to stop reading? Reading is essential. Reading is fun … unless you’ve never learned to read properly in the first place.

Because reading is the gateway skill to further learning, children who cannot read proficiently seldom catch up academically and often fail to graduate on time from high school or drop out altogether. This stark reality has propelled three dozen states to adopt policies aimed at improving third-grade reading, including holding third-graders back who have yet to become proficient readers— a controversial move.

CPE, in conjunction, with NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, Black Council of School Board Members, National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members and Hispanic Council of School Board Members explore the complex landscape of early literacy in a new white paper, Learning to Read, Reading to Learn. Yes, you’ll have to READ IT here.






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