All boats rise

Reading and math achievement in improving across the nation, concludes a study by the Center on Education Policy.  The study found no evidence that the federal push for “proficient” performance has shortchanged advanced or low-achieving students.

. . . even though NCLB creates incentives for schools to focus on ensuring students reach the proficient level, states posted gains at the advanced and basic-and-above levels as well. At the basic-and-above level, 73 percent of the trend lines analyzed across various subjects and grades showed gains. At the advanced level, 71 percent of the trend lines analyzed showed improvement.

“If accountability policies were indeed shortchanging high- and low-achieving students, we would expect to see stagnation or decline at the basic and advanced levels,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “Instead, the percentages of students scoring at the basic-and-above and advanced levels have increased much more often than they have decreased, especially in the lower grades.”

Students improved more in math than in reading. Most of the gains were seen in elementary and middle school, though high school scores improved slightly.

Update: Eduwonk and Mickey Kaus wonder why the study hasn’t made more of a splash. Eduwonk asks:

Is it too cynical to think it would be bigger news if it went the other way?

Education Week has more on the study; many of the comments from educators dismiss the importance of higher reading and math scores.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Let’s see just how low are the cut scores? Does proficient mean grade level and does advanced truly mean above grade level? In most states, I truly doubt it. Based on Tennessee’s TCAP scores vs the NAEP scores the lies from education statistics continues….this is just not true…the cut scores were lowered for these target measures…sorry

  2. Being the eternal optimist, where there are lies there’s something of value for which to lie.

  3. Charles R. Williams says:

    This is consistent with my impressions. NCLB has resulted in modest improvements in student performance at a very high cost. As time passes the improvements will cease or even be reversed as educators learn to game the system.

  4. Hold on a second. How can it be concluded that potentially high achieving students are benefitting from NCLB based on modest improvements in test scores? The scores show that the students improved, but cannot possibly show where they *could* be if given a more rigorous, focused education.

    I had plenty of kids in my classroom who walked in above grade level and worked out above grade level. And to be perfectly frank (I will indict no one other than myself) they got a tiny fraction of what they might have had if they’d gone to a high-functioning school with a great curriculum and experienced faculty. They’re suffering the educational equivalent of malnutrition and will not reach anywhere near their potential.

  5. I posted elsewhere on this report. Any idea that the test really measures the capacity of the kids at the top of the curve is laughable.
    I am virtually certain that “advanced” really represents something much less, as do the other designations.

    In the DC area, high-school magnet programs use SAT scores as part of the admission process, because even the SSAT doesn’t discriminate sufficiently at the top. It is not unusual for accepted students to score in the mid 700s (old scoring) on both the math and verbal SAT sections, EARLY IN THEIR 8TH GRADE YEAR, and a number of these kids will say that they really haven’t been challenged in school. Kids at this level could finish a really rigorous high-school curriculum at 16 and run through college in 3 years or less, if “the blob” was interested in challenge and acceleration.

    Even so, these are the lucky kids; many from middle-school magnet programs, but there are many kids who have never been had any chance to see what they could do. Even the affluent suburbs are not always interested in the academically talented. The educational establishment, which includes many who were never academically talented, not uncommonly dismisses gifted programs as unnecessary, elitist and undesirable. The only thing keeping them is parental pressure.