Girls outscore boys on engineering test

Eighth-grade girls outperformed boys on the first national test of technological literacy, reports Education Week. The Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) exam, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was designed to measure problem-solving skills rather than knowledge.

Technology and engineering are stressed at Girls' Middle School, a private school in Palo Alto, CA.

Technology and engineering are stressed at Girls’ Middle School, a private school in Palo Alto, CA.

Overall, 43 percent of students tested as proficient or advanced.

The largest gaps were the familiar ones: Black, Latino, low-income and urban students did significantly worse.

Students were given “a series of virtual scenarios aimed at testing their problem-solving abilities and their ability to use information about technology and engineering to develop solutions,” writes Jackie Zubrzycki.

There was no evidence that the gap in scores was due to girls’ reading ability, said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.

As they take the test, students work through multistep scenarios that range from creating a historically accurate museum exhibit about a drought to developing safe bike lanes in a city. Students are provided with background knowledge about the topics before they are asked to answer questions about them: One of the scenarios included a background video about iguanas before students were asked to design an ideal iguana habitat.

. . . on a task related to designing a bike lane, 76 percent of students successfully identified components of a safe bike lane, the first step; 64 percent were able to identify potential adjustments to a sample set of bike lanes to make them safer by, for instance, expanding the lanes; 45 percent were able to successfully redesign the route using an interactive tool. But a smaller portion, 11 percent, could explain the rationale behind the route that they chose.

NAEP plans similar scenario-based tasks on other exams, starting with social studies or history.

Nearly two-thirds of test-takers said they’d learned about solving problems and fixing things at home rather than at school.

When I grew up, girls weren’t supposed to fix things and my father believed that Jews couldn’t fix things, so I didn’t learn much about how things work. Other than magic! I do have good problem-solving skills — if background knowledge is not required.

Take a look at the TEL task video and see if you think this is a useful way to measure technical and engineering skills.

75% of seniors aren’t ready for college math

Only 25 percent of 12th graders are prepared for college math and 37 for college reading, according to the latest Nation’s Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Math scores fell over the last two years, while reading scores have been flat since 2009.

Remember that the weakest students have dropped out by 12th grade.

Low performers are doing worse while high achievers are improving, notes Liana Heitin on Ed Week. The percentage of students scoring at the “below basic” level was higher in both reading and math, compared to 2013.

That may be a side-effect of the rising graduation rate, which hit 82 percent in 2014.

Racial/ethnic gaps are huge: 64 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics score as below basic in math; only 7 percent of blacks and 11 percent of Hispanics score as proficient or better. By contrast, a third of whites and nearly half of Asian-Americans are proficient or better.

Here’s more on the knowledge and skills required to score “basic” or “proficient” on NAEP’s 12th-grade math exam.

In reading, 49 percent of Asians, 46 percent of whites, 25 percent of blacks and 17 percent of black 12th graders are proficient or better.

“College for all” remains the mantra. Nearly two-thirds of high school graduates will enroll in college immediately: 55 percent will complete a degree within six years.

Kentucky, Georgia top NAEP Dishonor Roll 

Kentucky, Georgia and Maryland top Dropout Nation’s NAEP Dishonor Roll 2015 for excluding high percentages of special education and English Learner students from testing.

The U.S. Department of Education requires districts and states to test 95 percent of students and 85 percent of special ed and EL students. Some states are out of compliance.


Dropout Nation also looks at cities that exclude high percentages of special ed and EL students.

Washington D.C. Public Schools, which won praise for rising NAEP scores, “excluded as many as 44 percent of ELL fourth- and eighth-graders” from the reading exam, reports RiShawn Biddle.

Dallas “excluded 44 percent of fourth-grade kids in special ed, leading in that category, and ranked second behind the notorious Baltimore City school system (36 percent), by excluding 29 percent of eighth-graders who were special ed and had other disabilities,” reports Dropout Nation.

Low-income charter kids earn higher scores

In Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, and Miami-Dade County, low-income charter students scored significantly higher than low-income students in district-run schools on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), notes Education Reform Now.

The difference of 10 scale score points in reading translates roughly into one year’s worth of learning.

On the NAEP math exam, low-income charter students averaged 8 scale score points higher, nearly a year’s worth of learning, compared to low-income students in district-run schools.

How NAEP scores match Core results

If a fourth-grader scores proficient on a Common Core-aligned test, will she be proficient on a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam? Not necessarily, writes Marianne Lombardo on Education Reform Now.

Except for eighth-grade math in Missouri and Vermont, students were more likely to test proficient on Smarter Balanced exams than on NAEP.

PARCC is better aligned with NAEP. Students were somewhat more likely to test proficient in reading on PARCC, but slightly less likely to reach proficiency in math.

Some blame Common Core for the overall decline in NAEP scores, notes the Hechinger Report. However, NAEP scores also fell in the four non-Core states – Virginia, Nebraska, Alaska and Texas – in most cases.

Fourth-grade reading scores were up in Nebraska. But math scores fell in Texas and in Minnesota, which didn’t adopt the math standards. “On the eighth-grade math test, Pennsylvania saw the biggest drop at six points, but Texas wasn’t far behind with a four-point decrease.”

Core confusion? Math scores drop

Math scores are down in grades four and eight on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the first decline in 25 years. Only 40 percent of fourth graders and 33 percent of eighth graders were proficient or better.

Fourth-grade reading scores were flat with 36 percent of fourth graders scoring proficient or above. Thirty-four percent of eighth graders were reading at grade level or better, a slight decrease.

The transition to Common Core standards may explain the math decline, education officials told the New York Times. The largest score drops on the fourth-grade math exams were on data analysis, statistics and geometry questions, which are not covered in that grade under the new standards.

In addition, “about a quarter of public school students are Hispanic, compared with fewer than 10 percent in 1990,” notes the Times.  Only 21 percent of Hispanic fourth graders scored proficient or above on reading tests, compared with 46 percent of white students.

The proportion of African-American students in public schools has remained about the same.

SAT decline is ‘ugly’ — and ominous

The Class of 2015 SAT results are “ugly,” writes Rick Hess. Scores have sunk to the lowest point since the college-admission test was recentered.

In the past decade, reading and math scores have risen steadily for fourth- and eighth-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Hess notes. So why do these gains vanish by the end of high school?

The conventional response in education circles is to conclude that we’re  continuing to get high school “wrong” — that all of the frenzied efforts to adopt new teacher-evaluation systems, standards, and curricula, digital tools, and the rest have had a big impact in K-8 schools but not in high schools.

But, maybe, we’ve been fooling ourselves, writes Hess. In response to No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states focused on reading and math in grades three through eight.

It wouldn’t be surprising, then, if schools found ways to boost those reading and math results by cannibalizing other instruction, reassigning teachers, shifting time and resources from other grades and subjects, emphasizing test preparation, and the like.

The apparent progress of elementary and middle-school students could be misleading, writes Hess. If so, our schools are in even worse shape than we realize.

Tests are getting tougher

Tests are getting tougher, according to a new federal report, writes Mikhail Zinshteyn on The Educated Reporter. Common Core adopters Kentucky, New York and North Carolina joined Texas, which rejected the Core, in raising expectations for fourth and eighth graders.

Overall, states are asking more of students, but most set proficiency cut scores at a lower level than the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). In 25 states, what’s considered “proficient” fourth-grade reading is equivalent to “below basic” performance on NAEP. Only New York and Wisconsin matched NAEP’s definition of proficient in fourth-grade reading and only New York matched in eighth-grade reading.

Image of Tougher Tests May Be New Norm in Common Core EraSource: 

“Proficient” students are on track to be ready for college, according to NAEP.

Many states are “living in a Lake Wobegon fantasy where they say the students are above average when they’re not,” said Gary Phillips, American Institutes for Research vice president. “The rigor of the grade-four standards in the highest achieving states may be comparable to the rigor of the eighth-grade standards in the lowest achieving states.”

In four states (Alabama, Maryland, Georgia and Idaho), the proficient level was below NAEP’s basic cut score for fourth-grade math, according to the study. Five states had fourth-grade math proficient levels at the NAEP level.

Image of Tougher Tests May Be New Norm in Common Core Era

History, civics, geography: Huh?

www.usnewsMost eighth graders don’t know much about U.S. history, civics and geography reports the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Only 18 percent tested as proficient or better in history, 23 percent in civics and 27 percent in geography. About half of students scored at the basic level. The rest did even worse.

The good news is that scores are no worse than in 2010, when the test was last given.

NAEP tested a representative sample of eighth graders in 2014.

Only 45 percent could interpret time differences using an atlas with time zones, notes AP.

Only about a third knew that “the government of the United States should be a democracy” is a political belief shared by most people in the U.S.

While most students said their social studies classes used textbooks, the percentage is falling. More are reading primary sources, such as letters and other historic documents, and viewing online presentations.

Blacks, Hispanics gain in reading, math

Black and Hispanic students are improving in reading and math on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams, writes Mikhail Zinshteyn on FiveThirtyEight.

“Overall, scores for 9-year-olds taking the reading assessment grew by 11 points between 1975 and 2012,” he writes. “The scores for black and Hispanic students each rose by 25 points in that same period”

While scores for white 13-year-olds increased by less than 10 points in reading, scores for blacks and Hispanics grew by 21 and 17 points, respectively.

White 17-year-olds gained no more than two points between 1975 and 2012, while scores for black and Hispanic students grew by more than 20 points.

Math shows the same pattern. Gains for black and Hispanic students were much greater than average at each age level.

Among 13-year-olds, math scores for white students increased by 21 points, while results for blacks and Hispanics increased by 34 points and 33 points, respectively.

Seventeen-year-old gained six points overall between 1978 and 2012.  Scores for black and Hispanic students increased by 20 and 18 points, respectively.

Blacks and Hispanics remain behind and they make a larger share of enrollment, so the average score doesn’t look all that good, concludes Zinshteyn.