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Arne Duncan ‘Encouraged’ By NAEP Results

By Alyson Klein — November 07, 2013 2 min read

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said yesterday that the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress results show “encouraging but modest” signs of progress. (Quick take: 8th graders’ average score in math increased 1 point since 2011, the last time the test was given, and 3 points in reading on the exam’s 500-point scale. Fourth graders inched up 1 point in math. But there was no statistically significant gain in reading for fourth graders. Way more from Catherine Gewertz of Curriculum Matters fame.)

And Duncan noted that diving into the Common Core doesn’t seem to have slowed down student achievement in eight states that he says were among the first to implement the Common Core. (For the record, that’s Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and North Carolina, according to Duncan). None of those states saw a decline in scores, and some saw gains in one subject, he said. For more analysis of this, see Catherine’s blog post.

Duncan also gave a shout-out to three states that made big gains in more than one subject, including the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Tennessee. What do all those states have in common? They all happen to have won a slice of the department’s Race to the Top fund, which was meant to reward states willing to embrace the administration’s education redesign priorities.

Duncan noted that these states have taken on some big challenges when it comes to teacher evaluation, standards, and other policies, and that it “sure looks like” their efforts are “having a real impact and improved student achievement and teaching and learning.”

He even gave a special shout-out to the Aloha State, a former Race to the Top problem child. “Lots of folks scoffed when we invested in Hawaii through Race to the Top,” Duncan said, in applauding Hawaii’s gains. In fact, this is the second time Hawaii has posted significant NAEP gains.

Duncan did not, however, actually credit Race to the Top as the force behind Tennessee, Hawaii, and D.C.'s success. One possible reason? Other Race to the Top states, such as perennial achiever, Massachusetts actually lost ground.

One reporter asked Duncan if he was disappointed that NAEP scores seemed to suggest relatively flat student achievement since the Obama administration took office, given that, in 2009, the feds pumped roughly $100 billion into education through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the stimulus). His answer? The stimulus money was meant to blunt state and local cuts, and this has actually been a very lean time for K-12, so it’s great that we’ve seen some gains.

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