AASA Statement On The Decline In 2015 National NAEP Scores

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Today, the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) released The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and Reading The results from the 2015 assessment are compared to those from previous years to describe change in fourth and eighth-grade students’ performance in mathematics and reading over time. Performance results are presented as NAEP scale scores and as percentages of students at the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels. The report also includes information about the performance of different student groups, as well as performance gaps by gender and race/ethnicity. NAEP results date back to the early 1990s.

Generally speaking, the trend in NAEP performance has been one of significant growth since the early 1990s. There are small variations each year, and this year’s data is garnering a lot of headlines over a potential stalling in student growth. In mathematics, the 2015 average scores were 1 and 2 points lower in grades 4 and 8, respectively, than the average scores in 2013. These small declines remain well above initial scores, as scores at both grades remain  higher than those from the earliest mathematics assessments in 1990 by 27 points at grade 4 and 20 points at grade 8. In reading, the 2015 average score was not significantly different at grade 4 and was 2 points lower at grade 8 compared to 2013. As was the case in mathematics, scores at both grades were higher in 2015 than those from the earliest reading assessments in 1992 by 6 points at grade 4 and 5 points at grade 8. 

We must be responsible in our consumption of this data and resist the urge for drastic changes. This could be a one-year anomaly or it could be something more significant. However our students perform, we must remain focused on supporting their growth and learning, and resist the urge t point fingers and shift blame.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech released the following statement

“The headlines today write themselves and cover all the usual angles: Our schools are failing. Our students are failing. We need more tests. We need fewer tests. We need better tests. Common Core is working. Common Core is failing. We need more school choice.

“We have had—and continue to engage in—these conversations, all of which have their time and place. But today, in this moment, when NAEP—widely regarded as the Nation’s Report Card—indicates that our students aren’t making the growth and achievement we would expect, perhaps the conversation isn’t about what we are doing as much as what we are not doing. And in this instance, we must consider the extent to which this set of NAEP data was impacted by the significant cuts to education investment at the local, state and federal level stemming from the great recession and held in place by continued poor policy.

“When it comes to our nation’s schools and the students they serve, we know that education cuts do not heal. Though we’re past the end of the great recession, education investment has yet to reach pre-recession levels. That means that our nation’s K-7th graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 educational experience to date under a post-recession funding climate, and that our 12th-graders have spent half of their educational experience in that underfunded environment.

“In a broader context, the federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 11.6 percent (adjusted for inflation) since 2010. And while AASA doesn’t advocate unfettered spending as a silver bullet, we also do not deny that investment matters. Adequate funding is a critical component of any serious conversation about boosting student learning and closing achievement gaps, and today’s NAEP data might be one of the first times we are seeing a clear, national narrative highlighting the consequences of our recent education funding policy decisions.”


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