Experts Weigh In on "Grim" Results, "Tiny" Gains in 12th Grade NAEP Scores

I only have time for a short posting this morning, but thought you should be aware of the newly-released results of the 12th-grade NAEP (National Achievement of Educational Progress) test scores. Instead of weighing in, I’ll point you to the analysis of a few others. First, Fordham’s Checker Finn writes:

The big news, alas, isn’t news at all, which is that proficiency levels remain dreadfully low in both reading and math (worse in math), that gains have been tiny, that college readiness is nowhere near what it ought to be, that the achievement gap hasn’t narrowed by a micron….

Second, Education Sector’s Chad Aldeman observes that the headlines “are grim: reading scores are down a total of four points since 1992, while math scores are up from 2005, the only prior year of testing, and achievement gaps are relatively stagnant.”

Finally, two experts quoted in an Education Week story came to somewhat different conclusions:

“Yes, there have been gains [for 12th grade], and they’re significant, but overall, the results are still disappointing, especially in comparison to the big gains at 4th and 8th grade,” said Tom Loveless, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who follows NAEP trends.


Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford University professor emeritus of education who focuses on college-readiness issues, saw the 12th grade NAEP scores as an encouraging sign that more students are building the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. Mr. Kirst, who has examined the new math and reading frameworks in depth, said they are far more rigorous and demand skills much better matched to college than previous testing blueprints, so overall score gains of 2 and 3 points since 2005 are notable because they reflect progress on a tougher exam.

Also of interest, this release of 12th-grade NAEP scores was the first to include a state-by-state breakdown. But only 11 states volunteered to participate. Colorado was not among them.