Massachusetts: Flatlined on national tests?

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EdWeek‘s Erik Robelen is reporting on the just released national test data. He notes that they

show that 4th and 8th graders have inched up in mathematics, but the results are more mixed in reading, with 4th grade scores flat compared with two years ago.

Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education and current chairman of the national tests’ National Assessment Governing Board, David P. Driscoll, is paraphrased as saying that:

the nation has made major gains in math over the past two decades, but that in reading, the growth has been “quite small.” And he called the 4th grade reading scores “deeply disappointing,” noting that they have been flat since 2007…

Mr. Driscoll, a former commissioner of education in Massachusetts, highlighted “an interesting flip” over time in reading and math, noting that while in the early years the proportion of students achieving proficiency in math trailed reading, the situation is now reversed.

That’s the big national picture. Among the states, the takeaways, according to Robelen, are as follows:

The new NAEP results also highlight changes in state by state performance. Hawaii was the only state to see improvements in both subjects at both grade levels. Meanwhile, Maryland’s reading scores improved at both the 4th and 8th grades. In addition, the District of Columbia, New Mexico, and Rhode Island saw improved math scores at both grade levels.

Mr. Driscoll said that over the past eight years, during which all states have been required to participate in the NAEP in reading and math, the largest overall gains occurred in Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, when looking at the increase in the percent reaching “proficient” in both subjects. And yet several other states “stood virtually still,” including Iowa, New York, and West Virginia.

The picture is actually more mixed than that. It is wonderful that Massachusetts has maintained its lead nationally, but the image at the top of this post sums up where we are a bit better: Our students are no longer improving at the rate they were and in fact their performance has largely flatlined.

On Massachusetts’ scaled scores, this is how we look:
2011: 8th grade: 299 (Unchanged since 2007 at 298)
2011: 4th grade: 253 (Unchanged since 2007 at 252)

2011: 8th grade: 275 (Highest score ever but statistically unchanged from 2005 at 274.)
2011: 4th grade: 237 (Highest score ever but statistically unchanged from 2007 at 236; it dipped in 2009 to 234)

And on proficiency scores, this is how we look:
2011: Highest score at “basic and above” in 4th (93%) and 8th (86%) grades. The 4th grade mirrors the 2007 score. The 8th grade is a new high.

2011: Highest percentage at “basic and above” in 4th (83%) and 8th (84%) grades. The 4th grade score is a new high water mark. The 8th grade replicates the 2007 score.

(Meanwhile, just to the south, in li’l ol’ Rhode Island, Education Commissioner Deb Gist has provided leadership that has allowed her students to make the most sizable math gains in the country.)

Crossposted at’s Rock the Schoolhouse. Follow me on twitter at @jimstergios, or visit Pioneer’s website.