Black and Hispanic students are improving faster than whites, observes Education Trust.
Since 1996, the percentage of our nationâ€™s fourth-grade students performing below the Basic achievement level in math has been cut in half, from 39 percent to 19 percent, with even stronger improvement among poor and minority students (from 73 percent to 37 percent for African Americans, 61 percent to 31 percent for Latinos, and 60 percent to 30 percent for poor students). At the same time, higher performers also posted significant gains, increasing the ranks of students at the Proficient and Advanced levels.
In reading, the gains are coming at the bottom and middle levels; eighth-graders aren’t improving, notes Time.
This kind of stagnation, along with the disappointing results in 8th grade overall, will further fuel the current debate among educators over how America teaches reading. It appears that the recent emphasis on phonics and reading mechanics, encouraged by the Bush Department of Education, is helping in early years, but something different is needed to take students beyond an elementary level.
No Child Left Behind defenders are claiming credit for the progress. Critics say scores were rising faster before NCLB kicked in.
I agree with Kevin Carey’s analysis on The Quick and the Ed:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NAEP results, particularly in elementary math, absolutely disprove the notion that public education is unreformable and nothing can be done for disadvantaged students. And while there’s a lot of talk about how NCLB’s focus on bringing up low-performing kids is pulling down the top and short-changing the gifted, I’ve yet to see any compelling evidence that this actually true. Our society is relentlessly focused on providing all manner of opportunity to people with an excess of talent, money, and social capital, and no federal law — particularly one narrowly focused on education — is going to change that.
More here on the likely consensus: We’re moving slowly in the right direction.
Update: “The Eclectic Linda” Seebach, now retired from the Rocky Mountain News and blogging, mocks the Minnesota spin on NAEP results: Yes, Minnesota ranks above average but only because the state’s students are “way whiter than average.” Minnesota’s black and Hispanic students do not outperform similar students elsewhere.