The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing results for 2009 were released this week. The NAEP is the only nationally administered assessment that randomly tests America’s 4th and 8th grade students’ to measure whether students know what they should at those grade levels, with special attention on the Mathematics assessment. The exam is actually administered every 2 years by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a component of the U.S. Department of Education. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the question at hand: Is your state’s Department of Education misleading parents and constituents?
The practice of reporting ‘half-truths’ or omitting important data is very disturbing to me, both as a parent and an educator. According to the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia’s students showed ‘significant improvement’ on the 2009 NAEP; the state was one of 15 to show such improvement. By Georgia standards, what constitutes ‘significant improvement?’ Apparently for 8th grade students, only three points. In 2007, the average score for Georgia’s students was 275 compared to 280 for the nation. This year, Georgia’s average increased by three points to 278, compared to 282 for the nation. Over a 2-year period, Georgia has managed to close the performance gap between the national average by only one point. Fourth-grade NAEP performance remained relatively the same, with only a one point gain over the same 2-year period. In 2007, Georgia’s 4th graders averaged 235 compared to 239 for the nation. Two years later, the score increased to 236 for the state but the national average remained the same.
Despite the small gains made by Georgia’s students overall, there still exists a significant achievement gap for Blacks, Hispanics, Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL), and Students with Disabilities (SWD) when compared to White and Asian students. Of the 8th grade students performing ‘Below Basic,’ 72% were reported as having a disability, 50% were Black, 47% FARL, and 41% Hispanic. When compared to White and Asian students, the disparities are magnified because 18% and 14%, respectively, scored ‘Below Basic.’ For more detailed information about the performance of AYP subgroups, click here.
As parents we must remain vigilant in finding and demanding the truth from our education officials. If parents do not have full disclosure they are essentially prevented from making informed decisions about where and how their children are educated.