Education Week - May 11, 2016 - (Page 8)
Scores Decline for Low Performers on 12th Grade NAEP
Is it because of rising
By Liana Heitin
High school seniors are doing
worse in math and about the same
in reading as they were two years
ago, according to the latest results
from "the nation's report card."
While disappointing, the scores
on the National Assessment of Educational Progress offer little insight
into the impact of the Common Core
State Standards on student performance, experts say, because 12th
graders spent most of their school
experience working toward different benchmarks.
The results, released April 27,
also show that the average scores
for the lowest performers-those
in the 10th and 25th percentiles-
dropped significantly in both subjects. Those declines, experts say,
are likely a product of the nation's
rising graduation rates.
"The vast majority of kids who
drop out are not doing well in
school," said Jack Buckley, a former commissioner of the National
Center for Education Statistics, the
part of the U.S. Department of Education that administers NAEP. "In
this case, we're keeping those kids
in school at historic rates, which
means we're assessing them."
A nationally representative group
of 13,200 12th graders took the
math NAEP in 2015, and 18,700
took the reading test. NAEP, which
is given periodically to different
grades and in different subjects,
is considered a barometer of U.S.
students' achievement. This year's
12th grade results do not include
state-level data because of funding
constraints, said Peggy G. Carr, the
acting commissioner of the NCES.
the test was first given in 1992.
When the scores are disaggregated by low, middle, and high
performers, it's clear that the low
performers are losing ground. Between 2013 and 2015, students at or
below the 10th percentile in reading went down an average of 6 score
points on the assessment-the largest drop in a two-year period since
1994. The high achievers, on the
other hand-those at or above the
90th percentile-did significantly
better in reading, gaining 2 scalescore points, on average, while staying stagnant in math.
"In the case of reading, ... students at the top of the distribution
are going up, and students at the
In the case of reading,
... students at the top
of the distribution are
going up, and students
at the bottom of the
distribution are going
down. I think that's
something we need
to think about."
PEGGY G. CARR
National Center for Education
'Be Patient, But Not Passive'
In math, the average score was
152 on a 300-point scale, which was
nearly 2 points lower than the 2013
average and constituted a statistically significant decrease. "I think
the decline is real," said Carr of the
In reading, the average score was
287 on a 500-point scale-statistically similar to the average score
two years ago.
"Over the past seven years,
schools have undergone some of
the most significant changes in
decades-work that is being led by
educators who are retooling their
classroom practices to adapt to
new and higher standards," said
U.S. Secretary of Education John
B. King Jr. in a statement. "We
know the results of those changes
will not be seen overnight, so we
need to be patient-but not passive-in continuing to pursue the
goal of preparing all students for
success after high school."
Longitudinally speaking, the
latest math scores are statistically
similar to those in 2005, the first
year that's valid for comparison.
Reading scores have dropped since
the proficient level.
Starting in 2013, NAEP also
began reporting on the percentage of students who are considered
academically prepared for college,
meaning they should be able to
do first-year college work without
needing remedial courses. To reach
that threshold, students had to
score at least a 163 in math and a
302 in reading.
In both reading and math, just
37 percent of high school seniors
scored at the college-ready level.
In contrast, the national on-time
graduation rate for students in
2014 was 82 percent.
"The governing board is pleased
that graduation rates are increasing across the country, but at the
same time, we are not making the
progress we need to for postsecondary, work, and military participation," said William J. Bushaw, the
executive director of the National
Assessment Governing Board,
which sets policy for NAEP.
"We need to be doing everything
we can to ensure a diploma truly
signals readiness for what's next,"
The data also show that large racial and ethnic achievement gaps
persist. White and Asian students
continue to significantly outperform
their black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native peers.
While 47 percent of Asian students and 32 percent of white students scored at or above proficient
in math, just 7 percent of black students and 12 percent of Hispanic
students did the same.
No changes occurred in the blackwhite and Hispanic-white score
gaps for math or reading between
2013 and 2015.
In a bright spot, the average math
scores for English-language learners
rose by 6 score points over two years.
That change, Carr explained, was
primarily driven by an increase in
the number of Asian students, a
group that tends to perform well on
NAEP, who identified as Englishlearners.
bottom of the distribution are going
down," said Carr. "I think that's
something we need to think about."
The declines provide "evidence
that is corroborated by all kinds of
other evidence that we need to do a
better job of supporting in particular our most vulnerable kids," said
Daria Hall, the vice president for
government affairs and communications at the Education Trust, an
education policy group that works
to close achievement gaps.
1 in 3 Ready for College
Results for NAEP are also reported at three achievement levels:
"basic," "proficient," and "advanced."
Proficient indicates students are
successful with challenging, gradelevel content.
Twenty-five percent of 12th graders scored at or above the proficient
level in math. In reading, 37 percent of seniors scored at or above
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 11, 2016 | www.edweek.org
T welfth graders weren't the
only ones who saw declines on
The 2015 results for 4th and 8th
grade students, released in October,
showed math scores had fallen for
those grades as well. Reading scores
were steady for 4th graders but declined for 8th graders since 2013.
On seeing those scores, advocates placed blame in many places,
though particularly with the common-core standards, which more
than 40 states are now using.
Reactions to the 12th grade scores,
however, have been more tempered.
That's in part "because for 12th
graders, the bulk of their educational
experience is pre-core," said Buckley,
who is now the senior vice president
for research at the College Board.
The students who took the test
this round are too old, he said.
"This is not a referendum on them."
The common standards were adopted in 2010 and 2011, but many
In both reading and mathematics, scores for high school seniors in the
lowest-performing percentiles fell between 2013 and 2015. At the highest
level-the 90th percentile-12th grade achievement rose in reading
and stayed the same in math over the same period of time.
Scores for low-, middle-,
and high-performing students
Years in which accommodations were not available
for students taking the assessment.
SOURCE: National Assessment of Educational Progress
states didn't truly switch over to
them for several years. In addition,
many individual school districts
chose to implement the standards
in just a few grades at a time, and
often, they started with the earliest
grades. So it's unclear how much
exposure 12th graders really had to
the common core. Four years from
now, Buckley said, the 12th grade
scores are likely to get "a lot more
Because this round of 12th grade
scores didn't break down results by
state, it's impossible to disaggregate
the results by common-core adopters and nonadopters.
It's also worth noting that many
people simply place less stock in
the 12th grade scores. Seniors
know the scores will not affect
them, so some believe they take
the test less seriously.
But Carr of the NCES said that,
based on data about omitted questions and other factors, motivation
isn't much of a concern-and it
wouldn't explain a drop in scores.
"Students are not interacting with
this assessment any differently than
they have in the past," she said.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 11, 2016
Education Week - May 11, 2016
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As ESSA Rolls Out, State Officials Vow To Hear Local Voices
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Study Says Teachers Feel Stressed, Discounted
Amid Rocky Start, College-Access Coalition Hires First Director
Migrant Students Kept Out of Schools, AP Investigation Finds
Scores Decline for Low-Performers On 12th Grade NAEP
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Education Week - May 11, 2016