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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 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.






October 7, 2014

More Students Taking Advanced Placement But College Readiness Remains Flat

In a departure from past releases, this year’s SAT results included results from the College Board’s two other testing programs— the PSAT/NMSQT and their Advanced Placement (AP) exams— providing a more complete picture of student progress towards college readiness throughout high school.

This year’s picture provides evidence that more students, especially poor and minority students, are taking more rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), yet such improvements have not led to an increase in college-readiness rates. Unfortunately, it is not clear why this is the case especially since the AP test-taking rates for the nation’s largest growing population, Hispanics, make up a large portion of the increase in AP test-taking.

Although Hispanic students made tremendous strides on the AP, as a group, they were less likely to reach the college readiness benchmark on the SAT. While nearly 43 percent of the Class of 2014 who took the SAT reached the college readiness benchmark score of 1550, just under a quarter of Hispanic test-takers did so. Moreover, black students who took the SAT were even less likely to be considered ‘college ready,’ as just under 16 percent met or exceeded the college readiness threshold.

 

The Findings

 

College Readiness

  • Nearly half (43 percent) of the test-takers met the SAT College-Ready Benchmark in 2014, which is unchanged from the year prior and slightly lower than in 2009 (44 percent).
    • The SAT College-Ready Benchmarks represent a student who scores a combined 1550 or higher. Students hitting this benchmark have a 65 percent chance of earning a B-minus grade point average in their freshman year courses.
  • Minority students are less likely to be college-ready.
    • Just 15.8 percent of black students and 23.4 percent of Hispanic students were college-ready, according to the SAT’s Benchmark.

Core Course Rigor

  • Three-quarters of SAT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is an increase from 70 percent in 2001.

Test Takers

  • Just over 1.67 million students from the Class of 2014 took the SAT sometime during their high school which was a 4 percent increase from 2013.
  • More minority students are taking the SAT.
    • Nearly half (48 percent) of test takers were minorities in 2014 compared to 46 percent just a year earlier.

 

Advanced Placement (AP)

  • In 2014, 22 percent of the nation’s 11th– and 12th-graders took at least one AP exam which is nearly double the number of students from just a decade ago, when 12 percent took an AP exam.
  • Even though more students took an AP exam, passing ratings improved as well. In 2004, just 8 percent of 11th– and 12th-graders passed an AP exam; that rate increased to 13 percent in 2014.
  • Hispanic students (19 percent) are taking AP courses at nearly the same rate as the overall national average (22 percent), yet black (13 percent) and Native American (12 percent) students are still less likely to take AP.
  • According to the College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT results, nearly 40 percent of PSAT/NMSQT had the potential to succeed in an AP course but never took an exam. However, such students may have taken other college-level courses such as International Baccalaureate or Honors programs.





October 6, 2014

More time for … reading

Last week we shared with you an interview that CPE Director Patte Barth conducted with PBS’ NewsHour on the growing trend among states of building extra time and support for struggling readers at the elementary level. Within that news package was another video that specifically looked at the practice in Florida, where a 2012 state law mandated a focus on the 100 lowest-performing schools.

CPE tackles both subjects— time in school and reading reforms— in two separate projects that will be released next week. Take a gander at this video and then mark your calendar for ours.

 

 






August 20, 2014

ACT scores improved while college readiness flattened

According to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014 report released today, after several years of overall ACT scores remaining flat, scores dipped by two-tenths the between 2012 and 2013. This was likely due, at least partially, to the fact that ACT included students who required accommodations to take the test, such as extra time. Such students–on-average– typically perform lower, so their inclusion may have negatively impacted last year’s results. However, the Class of 2014 took back some of these losses by posting a gain of one-tenth of a point while still including all test takers.

Unlike overall scores that improved in 2014, the percent of students meeting ACT’s college readiness benchmarks remained flat after posting gains over the past several years. However, there were some differences by subject areas. In fact, more 2014 graduates met the college readiness benchmark in science than in 2013. On the other hand, fewer 2014 graduates met the college readiness benchmark in math than in 2013.

More positive results were found at the state level where all eight states that have administered the ACT to all students for multiple years as part of their statewide assessment systems (Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) scored higher in 2014 than in 2013. In fact, a handful of these states make fairly dramatic gains in just the past year.

On the surface, the results don’t show much change in how prepared our graduates are for life after high school. Overall scores increased while there was no change in how many graduates were deemed college-ready. Keep in mind that ACT scores change very little from year to year so it will take several years to determine if these results are the start of a trend or not.

What is clear is that overall scores and college readiness results have not suffered, even as we’ve seen a record number of students graduate from high school on time, and seen a dramatic increase in the number of students taking the ACT test and advancing to college. Of course, there is room for improvement but these results show that our nation’s high schools are indeed preparing more students for college than ever before.— Jim Hull

 

Key findings below

State Scores

  • Of the 33 states where at least 40 percent of graduates took the ACT:
    • Minnesota once again achieved the highest composite score with 22.9.
      • However, just 76 percent of Minnesota 2014 graduates took the ACT
    • Graduates from Hawaii posted the lowest scores among states with a score of 18.2.
  • Of the 12 states where 100 percent of graduates took the ACT:
    • Utah had the highest score at 20.8, followed by Illinois (20.7) and Colorado (20.6).
    • North Carolina (18.9), Mississippi (19.0), and Louisiana (19.2) had the lowest scores out of this group.
    • Three states (Wyoming, Tennessee, and Kentucky) improved their scores by three-tenths of a point over the past year while Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina improved their scores by two-tenths of a point.
      • Louisiana saw their scores drop by three-tenths of a point over the past year.

National Scores

  • The nation’s graduating Class of 2014 had an average composite score of 21.0, which was one-tenth of a point increase from 2013.  Scores had decreased by two-tenths of a point between 2012 and 2013 likely due to fact ACT included scores from students who received special accommodations such as extra time for the first time in 2013. Such students are typically lower performing students than those who do not receive accommodations.
    • At this score, an average high school graduate has about a 75 percent chance of getting admitted into a good college.*
  • Scores increased by two-tenths of a point in reading (21.3) and increased by one-tenth of point in English (20.3) and science (20.8) between 2013 and 2014, while scores on the math test remained at 20.9.
  • Scores for black and white students improved.
    • White graduates increased their scores by one-tenth of a point between 2013 and 2014 (22.2 to 22.3), although it was still a tenth of a point below their 2012 score.
    • The average black graduate score improved from 16.9 to 17.0 over the past year as well.
    • As for Hispanic graduates, their scores remained at 18.8 just as in 2013.

College Readiness

  • Twenty-six percent of 2014 high school graduates were college-ready in all four ACT subject tests (English, reading, math, and science), which is the same as in 2013 but a three percentage point increase since 2009.
    • Graduates who achieve these benchmarks are ready to succeed in first-year, credit-bearing college courses in the specific subjects ACT tests, according to ACT research. “Success” is defined as a 75% likelihood of earning a ‘C’ or better in the relevant course.
  • Little change in college readiness by subject.
    • The number of graduates reaching ACT’s college-ready benchmark in science increased by one percent from 2013 to 2014.
    • In math, the number of graduates deemed college-ready decreased by one percent.
    • In English and reading there was no change in the number of graduates being college-ready in those subject areas.

Core Course Rigor

  • Graduates who completed ACT’s recommended core curriculum were much more likely to be college-ready.
    • Two-thirds (67 percent) of graduates who completed at least four years of English courses were college-ready in English compared to 36 percent of those who did not. In reading, 46 percent of graduates who completed at least four years of English courses met ACT’s college-ready benchmarks for reading compared to 32 percent who did not.
    • There was a much greater disparity when it came to math and science.
      • For those graduates that completed three or more years worth of math nearly half (46 percent) were college-ready in math compared to just eight percent who did not.
      • For those graduates that completed three or more years worth of science nearly 41 percent were college-ready in science compared to just eight percent who did not.

Test Takers

  • About 57 percent of all 2014 high graduates took the ACT, compared to 54 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2009.
  • More minority graduates are taking the ACT.
    • In 2014, nearly 28 percent of ACT test-takers were Hispanic or black, compared to 24 percent in 2010.
    • Furthermore, the percentage of test-takers who were white decreased between 2010 and 2014, from 62 percent to 56 percent.

For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Data First Web site.

* Data based on calculations from the Center for Public Education’s Chasing the College Acceptance Letter: Is it harder to get into college





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