The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress results were released last week and the findings were not good. The exam, which tests approximately 300,000 fourth and eighth graders in reading and math, were last reported in 2017. According to the Washington Post’s Perry Stein:
“Nationally, scores for reading in fourth and eighth grades dropped from 2017 to 2019. Declines were recorded among students with the highest scores and among those with the lowest scores. In math, there was a small improvement among fourth-graders but a small drop in grade eight, driven by declines among lower-performing students.”
The Center for Education reform was even more direct in its assessment of scores on the test that is referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
“Only 35 percent of 4th grade and 34 percent of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in NAEP reading, and 41 percent of 4th grade and 34 percent of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in NAEP math, and that’s not reflecting the declining performance of historically low performers, precisely the students we should worry the most about. In what world are these acceptable results?”
The only positive in this examination revolves around performance of pupils in Washington, D.C. Again, according to Ms. Stein:
“This year, the District and Mississippi were the only jurisdictions to improve on three of the four metrics evaluated. And when compared with the 50 states, the District made the largest gains in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math over the three decades since the test was first administered. . . The District was the only jurisdiction that experienced a significant increase in eighth-grade reading. The score increased to 250 points, still well below the national state average on the exam. “
In fact, the District’s performance lags compared to the national average for proficiency and above in fourth and eighth grade reading and math. Even more unsettling is that the gains made by D.C.’s students come from the traditional school sector. Ms. Stein indicated that the proficiency percentages for charter school students were flat compared to two years ago.
What is going on here? We saw lackluster 2019 PARCC standardized test scores come out from the charters followed by the NAEP. Do we know the root cause of these indicators?
Well please allow me to repeat what I wrote when the PARCC scores were released:
“There are many reasons that charters are failing to perform when it comes to the PARCC. The facility issue is still proving to be a significant drain on the attention span of school leaders. The financial challenges, especially around teacher salaries, are not helped by the substantial inequity in funding compared to DCPS. The pressure placed on these schools by the PCSB in the way of accountability through the Performance Management Framework, and other regulatory burdens, makes it almost impossible for them to be the centers of innovative learning envisioned when they were created.”
These are issues that can no longer be ignored. They are significantly impacting student achievement. It’s time to start over. I need a group of energized and angry education reformers to lead the charge in Washington, D.C. to get our movement on the right track. The alternative is that our charter school experiment may be coming to an end.