NAEP Performance for ‘Mega States’ a Mixed Bag

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 21, 2013 2 min read
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Today, the National Assessment Governing Board released a new report analyzing the performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress of the five biggest states in the nation by enrollment (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas) compared to each other and the nation overall. As you can see in my online story, the performance of the “mega states” (as they are referred to in the report) has results that are both encouraging and of concern for states, depending on which tests you look at and how you look at them.

The report was issued as a way to capture the nation’s overall educational progress, given that roughly 40 percent of the nation’s 49 million public school students are in these five states.

One very short summary of the report is that Florida students made gains that beat the nation’s average progress in reading among 4th and 8th graders who were tested, while Texas showed particularly strong progress in math and beat the nation on the science assessment. However, officials who study NAEP will tell you that it is not smart to try to give the credit for strong NAEP results to any specific policies.

A press conference in Sacramento, at which the report was rolled out and which was carried online, included remarks from various state education officials. Among them was Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of education for Florida schools. He provided some pushback to the school of thought I mentioned in the previous paragraph about NAEP, that you shouldn’t tie NAEP results to specific policies.

Bennett noted that Florida’s recent run of success on NAEP coincided with Florida’s adoption of 3rd grade reading retention (not socially promoting students to the 4th grade who can’t demonstrate literacy), as well as its decision to grade schools on an A-F basis. While he said that there was no clear cause-and-effect between these policies and Florida’s NAEP performance, “We cannot ignore that prospect.”

Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent for California public schools, took a different tack in discussing the scores. He said that while NAEP was a useful tool for states to look at their performance, it was only one tool, and that, “NAEP is not aligned to the standards that drive instruction in our state.”

Bennett is a member of Chiefs for Change, an affiliate of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which has supported 3rd grade reading retention and A-F school grading. Zeiger, meanwhile, was in The New York Times recently for scoffing at the low grade given to the state’s education policy by Michelle Rhee’s education advocacy group, StudentsFirst.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.