Georgia improves on NAEP. Why is reading falling behind nationally?

The National Center for Education Statistics hosted a live webinar this morning in which Commissioner Jack Buckley shared the results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments in mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8.

I was on the call, which revealed some  good news for Georgia in its first few minutes: A map was flashed with the nine states that showed increases in fourth grade NAEP math scores in 2011 compared to 2009. Georgia was among the states, although we remain below the national average.

However, Georgia had no significant change in 8th grade math scores in 2011 compared to 2009. There was also no significant change in 4th grade reading performance in Georgia.

One of the pleasures of NAEP webcasts is listening to former Massachusetts Education Commissioner David Driscoll, who is on the National Assessment Governing Board. He is a very articulate and straightforward guy.

In today’s press call, Driscoll noted that 2011 was a milestone for NAEP, 40 years since the test began, 20 years since NAEP has been able to report state results and almost 20 in being able report those results in terms of three achievement levels, basic, proficient and advanced.

Driscoll said that the results show major improvements in math achievement since 1990. Then, only 13 percent of fourth graders test proficient; this year, 40 percent did. The average score in 1990 on NAEP was 213. It is now 241. (The top score is 500.)

There have also been major gains in eighth grade math as well, from 15 percent to 35 percent reaching proficiency, he said.

Unfortunately, Driscoll said the gains in reading over the two decades have been quite small. In that time, he said there has also been a flip. The percent of students around or above proficient was far higher in reading than in math in 1990. Now, math is higher.

Driscoll said that flip reflects the success of math instruction, which is almost exclusively taught in math classes in schools. It is different for reading proficiency, which is also product of how much students read outside school and how much reading they do across curriculum, not just in reading and English/Language Arts classes, he said.

Despite the improvement in math, progress has slowed in the past eight years, especially in grade 4, Driscoll said. And the number of students below basic remains far too high.

The achievement gap remains. Fifty percent of black students and 40 percent of Hispanic students in eighth grade scored below basic achievement in math, he said. “This means they still have difficulty doing basic arithmetic. Students at those levels will likely have problems with the algebra that will put them on track for college,” he cautioned.

Driscoll noted that some places offer lessons because their improvement continues at high rates, citing North Carolina, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C, as places with the largest gains in both 4th and 8th grade math.

While NAEP alone can’t tell us why there have been gains, Driscoll said we should be looking to those places with persistent and notable gains.

U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan has already issued a statement:  “The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism. While student achievement is up since 2009 in both grades in mathematics and in 8th grade reading, it’s clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation’s children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st Century. After significant NAEP gains in the 1990s, particularly in mathematics, the 2011 results continue a pattern of modest progress.

“President Obama and I are committed to investing in education to protect teachers’ jobs and help communities modernize their schools for the 21st century.  Through the American Jobs Act, the President has proposed $30 billion to keep teachers in the classroom and off the unemployment line, and another $30 billion to repair and modernize schools that will upgrade science labs and create 21st Century learning environments in America’s antiquated school buildings.”

I am still on the call, but Georgia DOE just sent out its take on the results. Here it is:

The results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show Georgia’s students improving in 4th grade reading and math, 8th grade reading, and making no change in 8th grade math. Georgia had higher results than the nation on the 4th grade reading test (221 scale score compared to the nation’s 220).

“The fact that our students showed improvement on a test with a nationally-set cut score is encouraging and demonstrates that Georgia’s students are making great strides in competing with the rest of the nation,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. “I am especially pleased that Georgia’s 4th grade students are outperforming other students from across the nation in reading. It is my belief that, as we transition to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, we will continue to see this kind of positive growth.”

Key Findings in Grade 4 Reading
• The average reading score for students in Georgia was 221. This was an increase of three points from 2009 (218) and significantly higher than the score in 2005 (214).
• Georgia’s average score in 2011 (221) was one point higher than that of the nation’s average score (220).
• The average reading score for White students in Georgia increased from 229 in 2009 to 231 in 2011.  The average score for Black students increased from 204 in 2009 to 208 in 2011.  The average score for Hispanic students increased from 208 in 2009 to 214 in 2011.
• The average reading score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program increased from 207 in 2009 to 209 in 2011.
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 66 percent, a three percentage point increase from 2009 (63 percent) and an eight percentage point increase from 2005 (58 percent).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 32 percent, a three percentage point increase from 2009 (29 percent) and a four percentage point increase from 2007 (28 percent).
• Georgia had the 29th highest score out of all states and the District of Columbia.

Key Findings in Grade 8 Reading
• The average reading score for students in Georgia was 262. This was an increase of two points from 2009 (260) and significantly higher than 2007 (259).
• Georgia’s average score in 2011 (262) was two points lower than that of the nation’s average score (264).
• The average reading score for White students in Georgia (272) was four points higher than the score in 2009 (268).  Black students’ average score increased two points from 2009 (249) to 2011 (251).  Scores for Hispanic students increased four points from 2009 (254) to 2011 (258).
• The average reading score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program in Georgia increased four points from 2009 (249) to 2011 (253).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 74 percent, a two percentage point increase from 2009 (72 percent) and a four percentage point increase from 2007 (70 percent).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 28 percent, a one percentage point increase from 2009 (27 percent).
• Georgia had the 35th highest score out of all states and the District of Columbia.

MATH
Key Findings in Grade 4 Math
• The average mathematics score for students in Georgia was 238. This was an increase of two points from 2009 (236).
• Georgia’s average score in 2011 (238) was two points lower than that of the nation’s average score (240).
• The average mathematics score for White students in Georgia increased two points from 247 in 2009 to 249 in 2011.  The average score for Black students increased three points from 221 in 2009 to 224 in 2011.  The average score for Hispanic students increased two points from 231 in 2009 to 233 in 2011.
• The average mathematics score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program increased two points from 225 in 2009 to 227 in 2011.
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 80 percent, a two percentage point increase from 2009 (78 percent).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 37 percent, a three percentage point increase from 2009 (34 percent).
• Georgia had the 36th highest score out of all states and the District of Columbia.

Key Findings in Grade 8 Math
• The average mathematics score for students in Georgia was 278, demonstrating no change from 2009.
• Georgia’s average score in 2011 (278) was five points lower than that of the nation’s average score (283).
• The average mathematics score for White students in Georgia increased two points from 289 in 2009 to 291 in 2011.  Black students’ average score remained the same at 262 in 2009 and 2011.  Scores for Hispanic students increased seven points from 270 in 2009 to 277 in 2011.
• The average mathematics score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program in Georgia increased two points from 265 in 2009 to 267 in 2011.
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic increased one percentage point from 67 percent in 2009 to 68 percent in 2011.
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 28 percent, a one percentage point increase from 2009 (27 percent).
• Georgia had the 43rd highest score out of all states and the District of Columbia.

–From Maureen Downey, for Get Schooled blog

25 comments Add your comment

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Forget data

November 1st, 2011
12:40 pm

Forget all these data. The new GA math was terrible and they are failing our students.

NONPC

November 1st, 2011
12:40 pm

U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan has already issued a statement:

Who cares? Arne Duncan has already proven to be a shill for the Obama re-election campaign. Your constant Arne Duncan quotes fall on deaf ears. When is shows some commitment to weeding out ineffective teachers, reducing bloated school administrations, and showing some return on investments already made, THEN we can talk about keeping those (effective) teachers on the job through stimulus spending and THEN we can talk about raising taxes on middle income homeowners (who have a disproportionate share of the burden) to increase salaries to teachers at the local level. As it is, he is transparently interested in their union dues/ contributions to the Democratic party.

carlosgvv

November 1st, 2011
1:36 pm

Don’t get too excited. There may be cheating involved.

WhoWhatWhyWhenWhere

November 1st, 2011
1:39 pm

Did this article mention what the other eight states are? I would think basic journalism would require that question to be answered. It would’ve been when the AJC was the newspaper that covered “Dixie like the dew”. The quality of writing by professional journalists has fallen off tremendously in the last twenty years or more.

justjanny

November 1st, 2011
1:49 pm

haters, haters, haters…can’t our kids and schools do anything right? haters, haters, haters

NONPC

November 1st, 2011
1:50 pm

MD was quoting the stats as they came in. I don’t think an instant in-depth analysis is necessary or possible.

Maureen Downey

November 1st, 2011
1:56 pm

@Non, That is just about what I was going to say — the Internet allows instant reporting, but not much perspective. But please note that I have gone back in and added some perspective.
Also, the five top states with grade 4 math improvement — please note that these are not the highest scoring states, just those showing largest gains — were Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland and
Wyoming

AMD

November 1st, 2011
2:34 pm

“Georgia’s average score in 2011 (238) was two points lower than that of the nation’s average score (240).”

Maureen Downey needs to go back to school for Journalism 101. If one only reads the title of many of her entries, one would be misled to draw a very different conclusion. For crying out loud, our 4th grade math performance is still below the pathetic national average. But oh no, if you read the title only, you think our 4th graders have achieved one of these few envious milestones.

Maureen Downey

November 1st, 2011
2:38 pm

@AMD, As I noted, the issue was gains — and continued gains over time. The panel said it was very concerning that most states did not see higher gains — their students stayed the same or fell back a bit.
Georgia did see gains that were significant, one of only a few states to do so.
Maureen

Scott

November 1st, 2011
2:45 pm

@Maureen,

How is the 4th grade math increase of 2 points (from 236 to 238 according to GADOE) significant? What is the margin of error?

AMD

November 1st, 2011
2:52 pm

“MATH
Key Findings in Grade 4 Math
• The average mathematics score for White students in Georgia increased two points from 247 in 2009 to 249 in 2011. The average score for Black students increased three points from 221 in 2009 to 224 in 2011. The average score for Hispanic students increased two points from 231 in 2009 to 233 in 2011.
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 37 percent, a three percentage point increase from 2009 (34 percent).”

Let’s go over these two points. They don’t add up. Something else is going on. On average, white, black and Hispanic students improved by 2 to 3 points in raw score. And yet the Proficient percentage went up by 3%. There are two possible explanations. One, those numbers are the results of incorrect samplings. Two, assuming the numbers are correct, the 3% Proficient increase has nothing to do with our math edukation in Jawgia. Maybe a large number of children born to Asian immigrant parents (who are IT engineers, professors, biologists, chemists, phycists, etc.) started their 4th grade in 2011? Just a thought. I have seen a lot of these children around lately in Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Duluth. I wonder if they have helped boost our math performance.

Clueless

November 1st, 2011
2:53 pm

Ha. My local media stations all headlined this news as “Georgia students trail nation in reading and math.”

Maureen Downey

November 1st, 2011
2:56 pm

@Clue, Well, that’s accurate, although I think the panel today was focused on increases from 2009 and over time and was concerned about states that have stalled out.
Washington, DC, has terrible scores, but the district is showing larger gains than most places and in both 4 and 8, which the NAEP panel this morning said was important.
Maureen

[...] National Math, Reading Test Scores Show Sluggish Growth, Sustained …Huffington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Wall Street Journalall 638 news [...]

Jerry Eads

November 1st, 2011
3:21 pm

@Scott, it’s entirely possible that 2 points might be statistically significant with the sample sizes available in NAEP. Whether it’s meaningful (actual changes in learning, vs. changes in population causing the differences, for example) is a different question requiring a quite intensive look inside the data.

Maureen & @Clueless, there is a very real statistical phenomenon called “regression to the mean” – when tested again, there is a tendency for low scorers to score closer to the mean (scores go up) and for high scoreres to also score closer to the mean (scores go down). DC may be doing some great work with these very disadvantaged kids, but the analysts should be very careful to separate real instructional gains from statistical chance. AND, we also know — from our only too close to home example — that one of the easiest ways to increase test scores, or in our case pass rates (NOT scores with our tests), is to make sure low-performing kids don’t take the test.

[...] no gains for Utah studentsSalt Lake TribuneHuffington Post -Seattle Post Intelligencer -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 647 news [...]

Joy in Teaching

November 1st, 2011
3:49 pm

Reading is falling behind because schools are falling all over themselves to improve math scores while less time, money, and energy is spent on reading.

My Language Arts class, for instance, has 34 students in it while the math teacher next door has 19. The books I am working out of are 10 years old. I do not have enough work books (which focus on skills) for an entire class set and what I do have is falling apart. The math books are less than 5 years old and they got new work books this year. The Remedial Reading teacher has been cut to part time although there are kids who need her services but do not get them because she isn’t here. Next semester, the entire school will be spending Academic Support time on math skills.

I do not begrudge the time and energy spent on math whatsoever. However, I do know that reading scores will fall and that teachers will be blamed for it.

long time educator

November 1st, 2011
4:19 pm

A simple axiom in education is whatever you focus on gets better, but an equally true axiom is you cannot focus on everything. We have focused on math so math achievement has improved. We have focused less on reading because of the emphasis on math AND as a society, we are all reading less and gaming and video watching more. I am not sure we can change that and I am a media specialist. The current emphasis at my school seems to be science, so we can expect GPS science scores to improve. It’s really not rocket science.

ScienceTeacher671

November 1st, 2011
7:22 pm

Key Findings in Grade 8 Math

The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 28 percent…

You read it here first.
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/10/27/math-getting-in-step-with-rest-of-country-was-this-fling-with-integrated-math-doomed-from-the-start/?cp=3#comment-161005

catlady

November 1st, 2011
8:11 pm

Thanks, Jerry, for reminding folks about regression to the mean.

On reading, I have to wonder if the problem is all these STUPID cure du jour programs might have set us back. For example, we ruined 8 years at least of kids with Reading First, a program that ignored reading comprehension! Thanks, Bush and friends. Then there is the other cr*p peddled as the cure for every problem, such as the various scripted programs.

Oh, yeah, it is the incompetence of the teachers. No outside variables can undermine great instruction! (Homelessness, lack of parental jobs, divorce, additional EL students, crowded classrooms, phooey on all that!)

ScienceTeacher671

November 1st, 2011
8:13 pm

Great points, catlady. I would add that when teachers aren’t allowed to retain students no matter how little effort said students have expended and no matter how little said students might have achieved, it’s not really the teachers’ fault when the students don’t have the skills to do more advanced work.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 1st, 2011
9:54 pm

Maureen, I was delighted to see your assessment of David Driscoll, who is a dear friend and mentor. Dave was commissioner of education in Massachusetts when I was a classroom teacher there in the 1990s. I had the pleasure of getting to visit with him in Atlanta recently at the National Association of State Boards of Education fall conference, and last week in Boston at the Council of Great City Schools. He was the architect who oversaw development of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the very successful and rigorous Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). It’s nice to see him recognized for his trenchant analysis and for being an all-around great guy.

Milan Moravec

November 2nd, 2011
1:52 pm

University hijack’s our kids’ futures: student loan debt
I love University of California (UC) having been student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases. Paying more is not a better education.
Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California’s ability to pay, not what others are paid.
Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases. Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university.
UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s economic reality. The sky above UC will not fall

Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

Anonmom

November 2nd, 2011
6:17 pm

I’m reposting these comments: (1) the DeKalb langauge arts curriculum for middle school is awful — my middle schooler (youngest child — now in 9th) was bored to tears — read a few paragraphs, answer a few questions — nothing to engage the kids — I think this “reader” series is used from 4th-8th grades — he hates reading (he loves to write and is very bright) — but there’s nothing to engage them in reading — it’s like drlllng for passage-based tests; (2) the NAEP – I had one of three children hand selected to take the test — it was my highly gifted,99% kid — in 8th grade — I think GA is “gaming” the test by hand selecting the “best and brightest” of the kids within the schools to take the test — we are not testing all 4th and all 8th graders — that’s the million dollar question to be asked in all states. The results might be very different if every 4th and every 8th grader nationally took the test… wonder what that would look like….