Don’t ignore the mostly good news on education, writes Karin Chenoweth, author of It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, on Britannica Blog. High-performing student are “making steady gains” and low performers are “improving even faster in math and early reading.”
She cites a new analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution. The survey found that “fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading show gains at both the top and bottom of the achievement scale, with the bottom showing the most gains.”
In the ’90s, fourth-grade reading scores plunged for low performers; high performers stayed about the same. That trend began to change in 2000.
In 2007, the top performers scored 10 points higher in fourth-grade math over the top performers in 2000, which Loveless says is almost one grade level, and five points in eighth-grade math, which is roughly half a grade level. Not too shabby.
At the same time, the lowest performers in fourth grade gained 18 points and in eighth grade gained 13 points. Hit the hosannas.
The gaps remain large, but the trend is positive.
Good news also in fourth-grade reading: the top performers gained 3 points this decade and the bottom performers gained 16, which means they are now a bit higher than where they stood at the beginning of the 1990s. We seem to finally have figured out something about teaching struggling readers how to read.
However, low performers dropped three points in eighth-grade reading; top performers didn’t change. That suggests that students need to develop vocabulary and background knowledge in order to build strong reading comprehension.