Sunday, November 1, 2015

Student Scores Drop in National Test

For the first time since the federal government began administering national tests in 1990, mathematics scores declined for both fourth and eighth graders. This test, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), measures student achievement from some students around the nation- it is the only test of its kind that is given nationwide. The cause of this drop cannot be pinpointed, but these results raise questions about both the changes in our educational system and the validity of the NAEP itself.

There are many current changes in America's public education system. Demographic shifts are occurring, in which there are more students from low-income families and students learning how to speak English. The NAEP test results also continue to reveal the varying performance of children of different ethnicities, communities, and family income.

Some have also attributed this drop in scores to the implementation of Common Core, an initiative that attempts to establish consistent educational standards across the US and prepare students for college or the workforce (plus you probably encountered some of this standardized testing in the past year). 42 states adopted Common Core Standards with the incentive of qualifying for a Race to the Top grant in 2009, announced by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Opponents to Common Core and NAEP argue that the Common Core curriculum and the exam do not line up, and that the inconvenient shift in curriculum is causing the drop in scores as well.

Others simply criticize the NAEP itself, claiming that its standard of "proficiency" is too high, and the test cannot adequately measure the ability of a student to be successful.

Do you think that the drop in the scores is cause for concern? Does more need to be done to fix our education system? Does testing like this provide much benefit, or is it just an ineffective use of time for students?
What role does Common Core play in this? What role should the federal government play in this, or is it up to the states?

The Washington PostAljazeeraUS News (photo from here)


Justin Chan said...

Thank you Jessica for you original post. I agree with Jessica that there are "many current changes in America's public education system." With changing demographics and a shift of focus in the way we teach material to children, such as Common Core, it is reasonable to think that national test scores would go down. I believe that with more data and time, test makers can make more representative tests of the students' knowledge, increasing national scores; however, that does not mean the tests better prepare students for the future, but rather that the tests are more accurate in whatever they may be testing.

I believe that Common Core has what I call a top-down approach. For example, what I found interesting was how teachers teach subtraction using the principle of distance. Although thinking about distance better rounds out the skill of subtraction, it is difficult for kids who first learn subtraction to also think about other principles. It is interesting to note that those who created Common Core already have the knowledge of subtraction, so they wouldn't understand the difficulty of grasping new skills taught by this "better" way of teaching. I believe that Common Core needs to have drastic reforms.

Here is an interesting article that links politics to Common Core:
To what extent do politics play a role in Common Core? Would eliminating Common Core or revising it redirect our education system for the better?

Eric Chen 1 said...

Great post, thanks!

The Common Core is interesting to me. I think that standardizing curriculum across the country is a good idea, but the Common Core does not execute it particularly well. It is perhaps an improvement over No Child Left Behind from the bush era (it tied funding to test scores), but from my experience the curriculum is strange and not particularly effective. It's position as a state initiative also seems strange to me. An initiative to standardize education across the country seems like it would be more effective if handled by the federal government.

The lower scores is perfectly reasonable though, as the implementation of Common Core has been rather hasty, and the questions students are tested on are not the ones they are familiar with. Perhaps with time the Common Core will show better results, but as of now I am not impressed.

Abhishek Paramasivan said...

Interesting post,

I think that the drop in the test scores is fairly reasonable considering that many states are trying to implement Common Core. Implementing new education standards will definitively take a while and may only be useful for that specific test. If I read the original post correctly, the test taken was the NAEP, which was based on older standards than the Common Core. This test was probably just testing different standards than what is being taught. That would cause a drop in scores because the kids would not be prepared for the tests.

I think there is a bigger problem here with the education system though. While standardizing the education system would be a huge improvement, Common Core incentives schools with grant money if kids do well on Common Core. This way, schools might focus more on common core practice than actual skills that students needs like specifics in science, math, and humanities.

Emily Shen said...

I looked up some of the sample NAEP problems online, and the language arts section for seniors seemed to be passage analysis, which we should be used to by now. However, the passage was nothing like anything someone would ever need to read — there were words in there that I didn't even know, like "rectory."
There's lately been a shift towards focusing on skills that are more practical — for example, they've omitted some of the trickier words on the SAT and the Common Core is also intended to focus less on memorizing formulas. Our low performance on the NAEP this year may be a reflection of our shifting priorities, and if it is, I don't think it's a bad thing.

Alex Binsacca said...

I think that the drop in test scores is definitely a concern, and there should be measures taken to fix it. I think the only real role the common core could play would be to asses the overall level of knowledge that students across the nation have. However, I definitely also think that in order to do so, the test must be modified. To actually meet the level of knowledge some students would know when they take the test. In short terms modify the test for the appropriate grades, like fix the test to a level of a first grader if one were taking the test.