Just how flat ARE those 12th grade NAEP scores?

Perhaps you read or heard that the 12th grade NAEP reading and math scores, which just got reported, were “flat“.

Did you wonder what that meant?

The short answer is: those scores have essentially not changed since they began giving the tests! Not for the kids at the top of the testing heap, not for those at the bottom, not for blacks, not for whites, not for hispanics.

No change, nada, zip.

Not even after a full dozen years of Bush’s looney No Child Left Behind Act, nor its twisted Obama-style descendant, Race to the Trough. Top.

I took a look at the official reports and I’ve plotted them here you can see how little effect all those billions spent on testing;  firing veteran teachers; writing and publishing new tests and standards; and opening thousands of charter schools has had.

Here are the tables:

naep 12th grade reading by percentiles over time

This first graph shows that other than a slight widening of the gap between the kids at the top (at the 90th percentile) and those at the bottom (at the 10th percentile) back in the early 1990s, there has been essentially no change in the average scores over the past two full decades.

I think we can assume that the test makers, who are professional psychometricians and not political appointees, tried their very best to make the test of equal difficulty every year. So those flat lines mean that there has been no change, despite all the efforts of the education secretaries of Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama. And despite the wholesale replacement of an enormous fraction of the nation’s teachers, and the handing over of public education resources to charter school operators.

naep 12th grade reading by group over time


This next graph shows much the same thing, but the data is broken down into ethnic/racial groups. Again, these lines are about as flat (horizontal) as you will ever see in the social sciences,

However, I think it’s instructive to note that the gap between, say, Hispanic and Black students on the one hand, and White and Asian students on the other, is much smaller than the gap between the 10th and 90th percentiles we saw in the very first graph: about 30 points as opposed to almost 100 points.
naep 12th grade math by percentiles over time


The third graph shows the  NAEP math scores for 12th graders since 2005, since that was the first time that the test was given. The psychometricians atNAEP claim there has been a :statistically significant” change since 2005 in some of those scores, but I don’t really see it. Being “statistically significant’ and being REALLY significant are two different things.

*Note: the 12th grade Math NAEP was given for the first time in 2005, unlike the 12th grade reading test.

naep 12th grade math by group over time


And here we have the same data broken down by ethnic/racial groups. Since 2009 there has been essentially no change, and there was precious little before that, except for Asian students.

Diane Ravitch correctly dismissed all of this as a sign that everything that Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan have done, is a complete and utter failure. Her conclusion, which I agree with, is that NCLB and RTTT need to be thrown out.


80% of parents at a NYC elementary school opt out of testing!

THIS IS HUGE!!! No Testing at This School! Parents Say NO!

by dianerav

Almost everyone agrees that high-stakes testing for little children is a huge mistake. The parents not only wrote their elected officials, they took direct action.

More than 80% of the parents of the children at the Castle Bridge Elementary School in New York City refused to allow their children to be tested.

They opted out.

The tests were canceled.


The parents knew that the only purpose of the tests was to evaluate the teachers, not the children.

Most Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — refused to permit their children to be tested.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

The parents thought the testing was absurd.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”

Principal Julie Zuckerman canceled the required tests because the scores wouldn’t provide statistically meaningful data once so many parents opted out.

She also hates judging teachers even partly on the basis of a test.

“It can’t be used as evaluation tool of teachers even if it were a valid test — which it’s not,” she said.

If all parents did this, they could stop the testing madness that is ruining education and children’s love of learning.

If it can happen at Castle Bridge, it can happen anywhere!

Without data, the giant testing machine can’t function. The children can learn stress-free. Education becomes possible.

Message: OPT OUT.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 7:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Wonderful Satire By Yong Zhao

His headline and first paragraph or so:


What’s Still Missing in American Education and How to Out-educate China?

10 MAY 2012

America has almost caught up with China, and actually in some areas surpassed it. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, America can now claim to have even more frequent high stakes standardized tests than China.

It can also be proud to be more serious than China about the test results because it uses test scores to break up schools, fire school leaders, and publicly humiliate teachers, while China does not have the guts to do any of that. China only gives those schools and teachers with high test scoring students some extra money.

America has also successfully reduced time on nonsense school activities such as music, arts, sports, science, social studies, lunch time, and field trips, something it has wanted to do since the 1950s when surpassing the former Soviet Union was the aspiration. And the silly Chinese are working hard to push those nonsense activities into schools.

Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Weekly Round-Up of Ed-related News from FairTest

Here is yet another list of news items about resistance to the Global Educational Deformation Movement, from Bob Schaeffer of FairTest.

NC State Super: Testing Craze Wastes Taxpayer Dollars

Top-Down Testing Programs Send Wrong Message to Students and Teachers

Pressure Builds for Texas Test System Overhaul

The Gap Between Education Research and Testing Policy
FairTest Fact Sheet: Why Teacher Evaluation Shouldn’t Rest on Student Test Scores

Hearts and Souls of American Teachers  — A School Board Leader Speaks Out

4,000 Rhode Island Teachers Sign Petition Against New Evaluation System

South Carolina Teachers Criticize Test-Based Grading Plan

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph-   (239) 395-6773    fax-  (239) 395-6779
cell-  (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Schaeffer also makes a pitch for donations:

If you find these news summaries helpful, please consider making a year-end gift to FairTest so we can continue this important work.  All donations are completely tax-deductible.

To contribute, simply click on http://tinyurl.com/SupportFairTest or mail your check to FairTest, P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Another Weekly News Roundup from Monty Neill of FairTest

Writes Monty:

Even with the holiday season well underway, the pace of assessment reform news has not slackened. In fact, important new voices, including educational leaders, business officials, and students are joining the ever-growing chorus pushing back against high-stakes testing overkill.
Montgomery County School Chief Seeks Three-Year Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing

Political Leaders, Chamber of Commerce Endorses Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

State Ed. Board Chair Questions Need for Testing This Year

Get Ready for America’s Next “Education Crisis”

Students Voice Opposition to New Testing Requirement

More Selective Colleges Drop SAT/ACT Testing Requirements — A Model for K-12 Education

Excellent ‘Toon:  “Do Any of You Want to Teach?”

The Terrible Cost of High-Stakes Testing — sponsoring a local forum on the issue is a great initial organizing tool

Student Testing Gets an “F” From Teachers

Too Much Testing Hurts Kids Who Most Need Help — a teacher speaks out

What Real School Reform Looks Like

Tests Confuse “Achievement” with “Aptitude” — Lead to Bad Education

Trying to Revive Arts Education After NCLB

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792; http://www.fairtest.org; Donate to FairTest: https://secure.entango.com/donate/MnrXjT8MQqk


Published in: on December 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Recent Articles Against Race to the Trough and other Deformations of US Public Education

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest has been compiling weekly lists of good articles that give a view from ordinary schools and households on what it’s been like under NCLB and its successor, RTTT. Here’s Schaeffer’s latest list.   — gfb


Assessment reform pressure continued to escalate even as Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore.  Best wishes to our friends and allies in the mid-Atlantic states as they recover from the storm.

Arne Duncan’s Legacy: Doubling Down on High Stakes Testing Failures

Texas Tests Breed Schools for Scandal

Testing in Kindergarten — Whatever Happened to Story Time?

Hudson Valley Parents Rip Excess Testing

Data Missing for School Improvement Grant Claims

The MLK Imperative in an Era of “No Excuses”

Researchers Urge “Caution” in Use of Value-Added Scores

Measuring the Worth of a Teacher

The Naked Emporer: What Test Scores Don’t Tell Us

Superintendent Dissects Race to the Trough’s Flaws

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph-   (239) 395-6773    fax-  (239) 395-6779
cell-  (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org
Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Signs of Backlash Against Excessive Student Testing — in Texas, of all places

Signs of change?

A number of parents, teachers, AND administrators in Texas, of all places, are beginning to pull out from, or protest against, the huge number of standardized machine-scored tests that they feel are sucking the life out of education. Or that’s what it describes in this article in the New York Times today 2/4/12.

A few excerpts:

In the Panhandle, the Hereford Independent School District superintendent may withhold her district’s test scores from the state. An Austin parent is considering a lawsuit to stop the rollout of the tests. Some legislators are mulling how to postpone some of the tests’ consequences for students.

In a high-level turnaround, Robert Scott, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, said Tuesday that student testing in the state had become a “perversion of its original intent” and that he looked forward to “reeling it back” in the future. Earning a standing ovation from an annual gathering of 4,000 educators that has given him chillier receptions in the past, Mr. Scott called for an accountability process that measured “every other day of a school’s life besides testing day.”

Many viewed the speech as a reversal for Mr. Scott, who has rarely spoken publicly against the role of standardized testing in public schools. He declined to talk about his remarks for this article.

“I think he sees that we are at a cusp of philosophical changes in the Legislature and across the state over what we’ve been doing the past few years with accountability and whether there’s been any worthwhile gain from all the testing we’ve done,” said Joe Smith, a former superintendent [...]

Kelli Moulton, the superintendent of Hereford I.S.D., is considering an outright rebellion. She said that she was still exploring the repercussions of refusing to send her students’ test scores to the agency but that she was encouraged by Mr. Scott’s remarks.

“We talk a lot, but nobody’s stepped off to do anything really bold,” she said. “Clearly now as a state, at least with a leader who is willing to say testing has gone too far, when do we put a stick in a wheel and say, that’s enough, stop? Because we are going to spend the next 10 years trying to slow that wheel down, and we’ve got 10 years of kids that are suffering.”

It also may be a sign of shifting political tides. [...]

What would it take to get a real public uprising against the destruction of our public school system? How do we organize a real movement in favor of having a free, publicly-funded and -run, enriching, engaging and useful education for all of our students?   


Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Federal Department of Education is Looking for Information on NCLB Cheating

The US Department of Education is doing a formal Request for Information, asking the public to share what they know about problems with cheating on standardized tests that are used to determine closings of schools and firings of teachers.

The problem is that they then plan to have a panel of “external experts” to review all of this information, sanitize it, and present their results to the public as fact. Obviously the results of the ‘investigation’ will depend on who’s on that panel of experts.

Here are the pertinent paragraphs:

“First, the Department is issuing this request for information (RFI) to collect information about the integrity of academic testing. We pose a series of questions to which we invite interested members of the public to respond. Second, the Department will host a symposium where external experts can engage in further discussion and probe these issues in greater depth.Show citation box

“Third, the Department will publish a document that contains a summary of the recommendations that were developed as a result of the RFI and the symposium, as well as other resources identified by external experts participating in the symposium.”

If you would like to participate, here is the link to the Federal Register.

Let me remind you that CTB McGraw-Hill has a number of forensic data-crunching packages (so to speak) that could be purchased by school districts that already are purchasing their tests. I don’t know exactly what detection methods they have, and they wouldn’t discuss details with me, but if you are interested in finding out one possible method, then read the first chapter of Freakonomics by Dubner and Levitt.

And let me remind you that DCPS (for one) has been steadfast in refusing to purchase such forensic packages.

It’s called stonewalling.

In Georgia, a serious investigation by the state bureau of investigation got to the bottom of it, and got lots of confessions. A serious investigation by the FBI here in DC and other cities would be a good start.

This Federal Register RFI, unfortunately, sounds to me like another attempt at a whitewash. It is not serious, I predict.

Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A written interview with me…

A certain journalism student felt I was worthy of being interviewed about education in DC and spoke to me by phone a week or so ago. The same student then asked me some follow-up questions which I responded to in writing. Here goes:

Q1) Last year, middle and high school test scores continued their climb over the past decade as proficiency levels were 3.2% and 4.1% higher in reading and math respectively.  However, elementary scores dipped 4.4% and 4.6% in reading and math proficiency.  Is there any specific reason for this?
A:I don’t really know for sure. It could be the test itself was significantly different and produced different results, but since I am no longer in the classroom I didn’t get a chance to even peek at it while students were taking it. It also could be that instruction was worse. But the results, taken at face value, don’t seem to indicate that “IMPACT” was a rousing success, do they?

However, I think your description of the scores could be more accurate. I think you are trying to say something like this: in grade 3, in 2010, about 43% of all regular DCPS students scored proficient or advanced in reading on the DC-CAS, while in 2009 in the same grade, it was about 49% who scored proficient or advanced. And in math, the proportion of 3rd graders scoring proficient or advanced in 2010 was only 39%, when it was 47% the year before. However, in the 10th grade, the proportion of all regular DCPS students scoring proficient or advanced rose from about 31% in 2009 to 34% in 2010, and in math, the corresponding proportion rose from 41% to 44%.
Q2) Do you think that elementary schools should be doing anything differently as a result of these “poor” results?

A: I think they should STOP teaching to the test because the test is worse than useless. They should ignore IMPACT, ignore NCLB, and just teach. Of course, this will happen when pigs fly, or when Obama, Duncan, Gates, and the others who are deforming American public education come to their senses.
Q3) Do you think it was irresponsible of Michelle Rhee to leave DCPS in October in the middle of the school year, especially in light of these scores?

A: It makes a mockery of all of her claims of it all being for the children. What’s important to Michelle Rhee is her career.
Q4)  In your first interview, you mentioned some positive things about common course standards, could you elaborate more on this and give specifics?

A: I honestly don’t recall what I said when I spoke to you. Common core curricula can be good or they can be bad. I understand part of the impulse for it, especially when I can visit a pre-calculus class where many students cannot solve the equation x=3y+2 for y. However, I don’t think that’s a problem with the curriculum itself; probably, it’s because students are forced to take mathematics courses they aren’t ready for, and teachers are forced to pass students or else they will get fired or receive low evaluations, and students are not held accountable for not doing any homework, for not coming to class, for sleeping in class. And, of course, students almost never see WHY they should learn most of this stuff (especially math).

Right now, curriculum in the US seems to be written by textbook publishers, some of which do a decent job and some of which produce content that is worse than execrable. If common core standards are to be used to dictate exactly what each teacher must do and say each day and precisely what is to be the lesson that each child learns — as is happening in a number of school districts — then I think that’s horrible. If teachers and other educators who deeply understand children, how they learn, and the various disciplines and how they relate to each other, are actually asked to carefully delineate which are the important dozen or so topics that should be learned each school year, leaving the details up to the schools and the teachers, then the idea has merit. But I don’t think that’s what is happening. Last time I checked, the various states that signed off on the ‘common core’ (not common course) curricula did NOT have broad involvement by teachers and other educators or experts. And unfortunately, I haven’t looked carefully at the CCS for math, so I can’t really comment intelligently. I do know for a fact that our current math standards in DC are a joke.

I had an education that most definitely did NOT have a common core. In fact, it had a lot of breaks in it. I went to school for part of elementary school in Montgomery County, MD, most of grades K-6. But for a full year (starting in January ’59and ending in January ’60, IIRC) I went to a French school in Paris, France, where they definitely did things quite differently than we did here. Then I went to JHS in Washington, DC, followed by two years at a New Hampshire boarding school (Phillips Exeter), followed by half a year of what they call Premiere at the same French school, followed by another half year of Terminale, at the conlusion of which I took their baccalaureat exam in the mathematics section. (There, one decides on a secondary ‘major’ at around the 10th grade, kind of like they do at Hogwarts.)

All of those different schools and systems that I attended emphasized different things and de-emphasized or ignored different things. I learned math stuff in France that I still have no earthly idea why they had us learn; and I find myself being asked to teach stuff in mathematics in the US that is virtually useless as well. Which one has the best curriculum? I don’t know. What I really did NOT like abhout the French system is that it was really lock-step, with very little room for exploration of ideas. I remember asking questions in my science and math classes – classes where I really did understand what was going on (unlike in my French literature and philosophy classes where I was completely lost) — and was gently (or not) reminded that “ce n’est pas au programme” — i.e., you are bringing up a topic that is not in the prescribed national syllabus and we are not going to discuss it.
Q5) Do you have any predictions for the results of this year’s DC-CAS?
A: I have no clue. It seems to me that most of the changes in scores at any given school, from year to year, are (a) somewhat random and (b) depend a lot on how well the teachers learn how to predict what will be on the test and figure out more or less effective ways of prepping their kids. Of course, prepping for this execrable test is truly wasting the students’ time. Will the test be harder this time? Will they grade it more leniently this time? Oh, yes, they don’t include all of the questions in students’ final score! Scoring these NCLB tests is a very political decision: which questions will be included in the final score and which will be quietly omitted; where does one draw the line between “below basic” and “basic”; how many points do various answers receive to ‘brief constructed responses’ and so on. It’s all really a con game and needs to be stopped, because it’s not helping to improve the education of our youngsters. All it’s doing is demoralizing parents, students and teachers, and enriching a small group of educational profiteers.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More Problems With DCPS Curriculum and DC-CAS

Upon taking a closer look at the DCPS standards and the DC-CAS, I submit that they should probably both be ignored by any teacher who actually wants to do right by students. If you are doing a good job teaching the things that students should actually know, it won’t make much difference on their DC-CAS scores. Conversely, if you teach to the DC-CAS, you are short-changing your students.

Case in point: Standards in Geometry and Algebra 1 ostensibly covered on the 10th grade DC-CAS. Recall that all 10th graders at this point in DCPS have supposedly finished and passed Algebra 1, and are enrolled in at least Geometry by 10th grade.

I have prepared a little chart giving the standards (or learning objectives) for Geometry: the ones listed in the DCPS list of learning standards, and the number of questions that I found on the page of released DC-CAS questions that supposedly address that standard. There is almost no correlation at all. In fact, if you threw a dart at the topics and chose them randomly, you would do a better job than the test-writing company did.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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