Florida NAEP scale scores stagnant over past 4 years

Just a quick note after perusing the inferred scale score means for the National Assessment of Educational Progress released this morning, which adds 2011 data. For fourth and eighth grades in reading and math, it looks as if the state has seen a general plateau over the past three test administrations. As has been the case for a number of years, the results for fourth grade are better than for eighth grade.

NAEP is the best look we have at a general assessment that isn’t distorted by the stakes assigned to tests. It is not perfect, but it’s better than looking at state test results. And beyond that, you are as well-equipped to make specious speculative comments on “why the plateau” as I am. Go right ahead in comments…

… [addendum 11/3] or, if you are Matthew Ladner, over at Jay Greene’s blog. I’ll stand by my statement here and to the St. Pete Times’ Ron Matus: any story you want to tell about the plateau is far more storytelling than documented.

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3 responses to “Florida NAEP scale scores stagnant over past 4 years”

  1. CCPhysicist

    My specious speculation is this “stall” has all the hallmarks of the thesis of “Cultural Literacy”. That thesis was that the US does a great job of teaching the mechanics of reading (what a 4th grade test would mostly measure) but a poor job teaching the underlying cultural meaning of words that is necessary to decode more complicated passages that might contain previously unknown words or ideas. Part of the thesis is that this results from reading pablum rather than content in the early grades.

    I see this all the time in my college students. They have a superficial understanding of most words, particularly those that might have been encountered if they had been reading something with more content than “My Little Goat” or whatever they read in K-5 these days.

    Their strongest reading skill appears to be skimming over detail to seek … well, they don’t know what key word they are looking for because my class content doesn’t fit into the one of the specific types of standardized tests they were trained to barely pass. So they simply skim, which means they have a lot of trouble simply reading a problem literally, paying attention to every word.

    Paying attention to adjectives and modifying prepositional phrases is a particular weakness. And since they are definitely above the average HS graduate, one assumes that a typical 8th grader sees only nouns and verbs and misses the higher-order content a test like NAEP presumably examines.

  2. Richard Innes

    You have fallen into the trap — simplistic analysis of overall NAEP scores does not come close to telling the real story about a state’s performance on NAEP.

    Did you look at the change in Florida’s student demographics? In the 2003 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessment, Florida’s classrooms were 51 percent white. By 2011, that proportion had dropped to only 40 percent. In 2003, whites scored 229; in 2011 they scored 235.

    Same time frame: Florida blacks went from 198 to 209. Hispanics went from 211 to 220. It is true that black and hispanic scores dropped from 2009 to 2011 by what are probably statistically insignificant amounts. Whites did not drop in the same interval, but showed a small, probably statistically insignificant increase in scores.

    Another thing: Florida dropped its exclusion rate for students with learning disabilities to a historic low of just 2 percent of the entire raw sample the NAEP wanted to test in 2011. By cutting out very few of these low-performing students from NAEP, Florida made it even harder to show progress in 2011.

    In contrast, Kentucky, which has been getting a lot of probably misplaced attention for raising its reading scores, excluded a whopping 8 percent of all students the NAEP wanted to test, claiming those students were not suitable for NAEP testing. What do you think happens to your average scores when you chop off such a large part of the bottom of the bell curve?

    To get smarter about pitfalls in the NAEP, read: