Saturday, November 20, 2010

New NAEP data out

White-Black math gaps getting worse

And even national educators don’t depict the situation properly!

The National Assessment of Educational Progress just released new data in the web on the testing of the nation’s students in reading and mathematics in 2009. Among other things, the release has this very clear statement from the National Assessment Governing Board about the real desired level of student performance.

That is a very good statement. It agrees very well with data that shows grade 8 NAEP reading and math proficiency rates compare remarkably well to the percentages of students who are on track for college and careers according to EXPLORE test results from Kentucky.

However, the information in the web also includes more, such as this disturbing graph, cut and pasted from one of the web pages with the title added (highlighted in green - title was off screen when the screen shot was taken). Tech Note: Screen shot taken Nobember 20, 2010, of “National Results, 5 of 9, Tab “National Results Grades 4 & 8,” from here.

Note that this says in 2009 only 42 percent of the whites were "Proficient" and only 15 percent of blacks were, for a gap of 27 points. Back in 1990, the gap was only 13 points.

The graph also has the understatement of the century, claiming that the gaps, “have not been reduced.” I guess not. They have GROWN dramatically!

But, there is an even BIGGER problem with this graph. It IGNORES all the additional students who scored better than “Proficient,” at the level NAEP calls “Advanced.” That’s the wrong way to present the data on gaps.

Let’s make that crystal clear.

Here is a graph I assembled today using data downloaded from the NAEP Data Explorer. This graph includes ALL students who scored at or above NAEP Proficient on NAEP grade 4 math.

Now we see the real black-white grade 4 math performance gap is 50 minus 15, or 35 points, 8 points higher (about 30 percent worse) than the 27 point difference web page graph owns up to!

The difference is that virtually no blacks score “Advanced,” while about 8 percent of the whites do.

Using the ‘right stuff,’ the gap back in 1990 was only one point higher than the misleading impression created by the NAEP’s graph in the web.

Anyway, the basic message stays the same. The gaps are not only very bad – they are getting worse.

So, here are some questions:

Why do educators in Kentucky continue to try to fool us by citing numbers for NAEP “Basic” as though this is a suitable performance target when our own testing data from EXPLORE and even the people who run the NAEP testing program say NO, It ISN’T!

And, why did national educators get their gap depiction wrong, too? Was it just a statistical error, or something more?

Common educators – Let’s stop the spin – NOW!

The gaps are VERY serious, and they are getting WORSE!

And, our kids deserve to have the situation portrayed accurately.


Anonymous said...

Spin, I think not! “NAEP Basic” and “state proficient” are both estimates of grade-level expectations. Even the national educators know this. They have read, understood, and considered the following:

“State assessments often define ‘proficiency’ as solid grade-level performance, often indicating readiness for promotion to the next grade. NAEP’s policy definition of its ‘Proficient’ achievement level is ‘competency over challenging subject matter’ and is implicitly intended to be higher than grade-level performance.” -- Andrew Kolstad, Senior Technical Advisor, Assessment Division, National Center for Education Statistics (2009)

Achievement levels define performance, not students. Notice that there is no mention of “at grade level” performance in these achievement goals. In particular, it is important to understand clearly that the Proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with “proficiency” in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level. Further, Basic achievement is more than minimal competency. [.…] Finally, even the best students you know may not meet the requirements for Advanced performance on NAEP. -- National Assessment Governing Board (2001)

States had to pass a federal Peer Review of its testing program to qualify for federal Title I funds. The Peer Review team expected, “The State’s academic achievement standards fully reflect its academic content standards for each required grade and describe what content-based expectations each achievement level represents. The ‘proficient’ achievement level represents attainment of grade-level expectations for that academic content area.” -- U.S. Department of Education (2004)

“Adequate yearly progress is already defined within the Act based on the percentage of scores exceeding the basic proficiency level. The basic proficiency level corresponds roughly to the percentage below basic on the NAEP scale. Therefore, of the various statistics that might be used for measuring a gap on the NAEP scale—proportion at or above the basic, proficient, or advanced achievement level, or mean standardized score—the proportion at or above the basic achievement level will both have the greatest correlation with the adequate yearly progress statistic and also be the most directly comparable. Since gaps and AYP measure different performance objectives (equality vs. absolute improvement), it follows that using the same basic statistic to measure each would simplify both interpretation and the presentation of results” -- Statistical analysis published by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel (2004)

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Anonymous said...

This isn't rocket science. Results just demonstrate the definition for insanity is alive and well - continue to do what you are doing and expect a different result.

How about some changes?

- visible aggressive goals for improvement and frequent public postings of progress against those goals
- all jobs at risk to accomplish those goals
- speak openly and publicly about the big elephant in the room limiting any significant reform that no one wants to acknowledge -- the union -- notice I said the union, not the teachers
- same time, 3-5 years, to make the improvement or close just like the requirements put on charter schools

The public system is paid to get expected results. Finger pointing and excuses have to go. If the system can't get the job done then give the money and control to someone who can. Lowly government standards and expectations are not good enough for our kids.

Without change there is no change.

richard innes said...

RE: Anonymous November 20, 2010 11:01 PM

You badly confuse 'what is' for 'what needs to be' in your great example of spin-to-protect-the-unsatisfactory-status-quo.

Your attempt to justify NAEP "Basic" as an acceptable goal is really sad for our children. Of course NAEP "Basic" -- which by definition only indicates partial mastery of material -- corresponds to what is happening in classrooms in the US today. That is EXACTLY the problem.

What is happening in classrooms today isn't nearly good enough!

Your entire post is about defending the status quo when there is plenty of evidence -- which the National Assessment Governing Board is clearly familiar with -- that shows the current performance in our nation's school systems is inadequate.

Spin like yours no longer impresses people like those on NAGB who are figuring out that current "at grade level performance" in the US is a formula for disaster in the new world economy. These better-informed individuals see things like high levels of remedial course requirements in our colleges, constantly falling US performance in international testing and unacceptably low high school graduation rates for the clear signals of trouble that they are.

NAEP's governing board looked at all of these spin arguments and then said, NO! The US needs students to score NAEP "Proficient." NAGB knows: what is actually happening today isn't nearly good enough.

Please get over spinning excuses for the status quo. That just marks you as part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the NAGB statement about "what needs to be" you refer to that contradicts this NAGB statement: "[I]t is important to understand clearly that the Proficient achievement level does not refer to 'at grade' performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with 'proficiency' in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level." -- National Assessment Governing Board (2001)

Richard Innes said...

RE: Anonymous at November 21, 2010 5:22 PM

Good grief. You quoted something from NAGB that is almost a decade old as though it were current policy. Those comments are way out of date. You have to stop living in the past.

The current quote from NAGB, which is brand new, is found in the green shaded box in my main post. It's clear and very simple. It's current, not almost a decade old.

Anonymous, you simply must update your perspective to the present. NAGB now declares that its goal for students is to score "Proficient" on NAEP, not "Basic."

Once again, you confuse 'what is' (unacceptably low current performance in our schools) for 'what it should be' (performance that will rank our kids among the world's leading countries, again).

Anonymous said...

I went to http://nationsreportcard/math_2009/ and searched for the word Proficient. The word isn't there. Maybe you have a more accurate reference for "The Proficient level has been set as the goal for student performance by the National Assessment Governing Board"?

Richard Innes said...

RE: Anonymous at November 22, 2010 9:26 AM

1) You had the wrong link: it is

2) Once there, click on the tab "National Results Grade 4 & 8" in the top center of the web page. That will bring up a new page.

3) Examine the box titled "Dig Deeper into the National Data."

This is the quote that I cut and pasted into my main blog item. I think it sets out the NAGB goal quite clearly. It is for students to score "Proficient," not "Basic."

Stacy said...

That's not good news. There is so much competition now for college.