Testing the “Mega” States on NAEP

By Sean Cavanagh — March 06, 2009 1 min read
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The test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” is perhaps best known for producing results that allow for state-by-state comparisons of student achievement, as well as national trends across grades and subject areas.

But now the board that oversees that exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is considering an intriguing option: adding a special report that would provide much more detailed information on the five biggest states in the country.

That option appeals to some members of the National Asessment Governing Board, which is meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. They say that a “mega report” would provide more useful information to policymakers and the public about states with similar student populations and similar challenges.

The idea is to supplement (not replace, of course) the current NAEP, which presents information on student performancefrom all states, including those serving very different populations, such as say, Florida and Iowa, or California and Wyoming.

The five states being considered for the mega-exam are California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas, all of which have at least 2 million K-12 students.

A mega test also would allow officials to better compare the progress of burgeoning and established demographic groups, such as Latinos, said board member David Gordon, the superintendent of the Sacramento County Office of Education, who’s interested in the idea.

“It could give you insight into how you’re doing with those fast-growing populations,” Gordon told me at today’s meeting. It has the potential, he said, “to give much more meaning to the NAEP results.”

Gordon leads a sub-committee of the governing board that heard a presentation from researcher Paul Barton, who was hired by NAGB to study the issue. Barton presented several options for what kind of information could be collected and presented in the five-state report, such as an examination of school and non-school factors and possible links with state and student achievement. Those factors included teacher preparation, class size, the rigor of curricula, and parents’ interaction with children.

No action on the mega-report is expected for some time. Gordon’s sub-panel, the Reporting and Dissemination Committee, agreed to keep studying the proposal and its feasibility.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.