The National Assessment Governing Board released its 2015 Science scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders. The results were positive overall, with achievement gaps narrowing and scores improving for almost all student groups in fourth and eighth-grade students. Twelfth-grade scores remained stagnant across all groups.
The tests assess students’ ability to identify and use science principles, use scientific inquiry, and use technological design in physical science, life science, and Earth and space science. Student responses are a combination of written (including multiple choice and open-ended questions) and interactive computer and hands-on tasks.
Of great concern, however, are the persistent gaps between students of different races, genders, and education status (English Learners and Special Education students). While these gaps are narrowing, we have to figure out how to provide greater opportunities to all students.
Some states are improving at faster rates than others (only noted if the state had a statistically significant change):
It seems that the gains made in fourth and eighth-grade scores erode by 12th-grade. Some of this may be due to lack of access to engaging classes and curriculum that could draw students into STEM fields.
2015 NAEP Science scores show similar trends as math and reading tests, which emphasizes the question: How do we move the needle for 12th-graders, as well as continue to improve opportunities and achievement for all students?
Large gaps in proficiency rates still exist between state and national tests according to a new report by Achieve, Inc. It has been known for several years that more students reach the proficiency benchmark on their state assessment than on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), and that gap remains today. In fact, proficiency rates on most state assessments are 30 percentage points higher than they are on NAEP. What this means is that if one of these states reported 80 percent of their students reached the proficiency benchmark on their state assessment, than just 50 percent likely reached it on NAEP.
In some states the gap was even larger. In Georgia, for example, the difference was 60 percentage points in 4th grade reading which was the largest difference in the country. In this case 94 percent of 4th graders were deemed proficient on the Georgia state assessment while just 34 percent reached the proficiency level on NAEP. Georgia wasn’t alone. Louisiana, Alaska, and Arkansas all had gaps of at least 50 percentage points. Similar results were found in 8th grade math as well.
However, there were states with small if any gaps. In fact, in New York more students were deemed proficient on NAEP than on the state assessment in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. The report also singled out a dozen or so states that had similar proficiency rates on their state assessments as on NAEP, or as the report called them the “Top Truth Tellers.”
The results aren’t entirely surprising. The Achieve report is based on results from the 2013-14 state assessments when nearly all states were still using older tests. Most states will be giving new Common Core aligned tests for the first time this year which will likely lead to lower proficiency rates as was seen in Kentucky and New York — states that have been administering Common Core aligned assessments for a couple years already. What will be interesting is how this analysis will look a year from now when state scores are based on more rigorous Common Core aligned assessments. I’m guessing the Common Core states will see their scores more aligned with NAEP while those who don’t will still have significant gaps. The question remains, will there be more pushback in states with lower proficiency rates or in those with larger gaps? I guess we will have to wait until next year to find out.—Jim Hull
Yesterday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the sixth installment of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which reports on the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders on NAEP reading and mathematics in 21 participating urban districts. Results show that our nation’s urban districts have made gains that have outpaced the average public school— yet students in large urban districts still perform significantly below the average student nationwide.
It is important to point out that the gains being made are not shared by all urban districts. Some urban districts have made more dramatic gains than others. For example, Washington, DC made impressive gains both recently and in the long term. In three of the four grades and subjects that NEAP assessed, DC students acquired nearly an additional two years worth of learning than a decade ago. Large gains were also made in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego since 2003. However, out of these large gaining districts, only San Diego performed as well as the national average in at least one grade and subject area. Charlotte, on the other hand, has made moderate gains but still outperformed the national average on all assessments except for 8th grade reading. Austin outperformed the national average as well in 4th grade math and Hillsborough (FL) outperformed the national average in 4th grade reading.
Despite significant gains made by some districts, the report also indicates the gains made by urban districts may be subsiding. Fewer participating districts made significant gains between 2011 and 2013 than between 2009 and 2011. Taken together, schools in large cities continued to improve between 2011 and 2013, just not as strongly as in previous years. In order to meet or even beat the national average, students attending schools in large urban districts had to literally outdo themselves.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet on how to accelerate such gains. Some of the highest gaining districts were governed by elected school boards while others were under mayoral control. Some have charter schools while others do not. Some instituted high-stakes teacher evaluation systems while others have not. Some are in states that have implemented the Common Core State Standards while others are not. From this report alone it is not possible to determine what attributed to dramatic gains. What school boards need to do is examine what changes high gaining districts may have made and determine if such changes would be beneficial to their districts
4th Grade Reading
- Washington DC (5 points) and Los Angeles (4 points) were the only surveyed districts to make significant gains on their reading scores between 2011 and 2013. During this same time period there was no significant increase in scores nationally.
- Houston was the only district to see a significant decrease in scores (-5 points) between 2011 and 2013.
- Atlanta (18 points) and Washington, D.C. (17 points) made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
- Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline (-6 points) between 2003 and 2013.
- Austin (TX), Charlotte (NC), Hillsborough County (FL), and San Diego scored higher than the average for large cities* (cities of populations of 250,000 or more).
- The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
- The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied dramatically among urban districts from 40 percent in Hillsborough County and Charlotte to just 7 percent in Detroit.
8th Grade Reading
- Five districts significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013, with Washington, DC posting the greatest gains with an 8 point improvement. During this same time period, students nationally increased their scores by just 2 points.
- From 2003 to 2013, only Atlanta (15 points), Los Angeles (15 points) and San Diego (10 points) made significant gains in their performance.
- Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline in their scores (-2 points) between 2003 and 2013.
- Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Hillsborough County (FL), and Houston scored higher than the average for large cities. No district had a significant decrease in scores between 2011 and 2013.
- Just as in the fourth grade, the percent of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
- The range of students scoring at or above proficient was nearly as wide as it was at the fourth-grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 36 percent while Detroit once again had the lowest at just 9 percent.
4th Grade Math
- Washington, DC (7 points), Chicago (7 points), Los Angeles (5 points), and Atlanta (5 points) were the only districts to significantly increase their scores from 2011 to 2013. During this same time period, the national average rose by 1 point.
- Washington, D.C. made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013 by increasing their score 24 points which equates to nearly two and half years of learning. Boston and Atlanta had the next highest gains with 17 points. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
- Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, and New York City made no significant improvements during this time period.
- Six urban districts scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities. In 2011, eight districts outperformed the national average.
- The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2013.
- The percentage of students scoring at or above Proficient varied dramatically among urban districts, from 50 percent in Charlotte to just 4 percent in Detroit.
8th Grade Math
- Three districts (Washington, DC, Fresno, and Charlotte significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013. On the other hand, Cleveland was the only district to see a significant decline in their scores (-6 points) during this time period.
- From 2003 to 2013, 7 out of 10 districts made significant gains in their performance, with Atlanta (23 points) and Boston (22 points) all making gains roughly equivalent to two years’ worth of additional learning.
- Charlotte, Cleveland, and New York City were the only districts that didn’t make significant progress during this time period.
- Four urban districts (Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County (FL), and Jefferson County (KY) scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities.
- The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 16 percent in 2003 to 27 percent in 2013.
- The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied just as it did at the fourth grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 40 percent, while Detroit once again had the lowest percentage at just 3 percent.
*All cities in the nation with populations of 250,000 or more.
For more information on NAEP check out: The Proficiency Debate: How NAEP Achievement Levels are Defined