Around the horn with NAEP

Around the horn with NAEP

By Dale Chu

Last week’s release of the 2019 NAEP report—the results of which were mostly grim—generated plenty of handwringing and a flurry of responses from pundits and policymakers of all stripes. In no particular order, here are some of them:

 – Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said it’s even more important now for the country to keep standards and expectations high.

 – Author Natalie Wexler lamented that folks are overlooking what she sees as the root cause of weak scores: the lack of knowledge-rich curricula in our schools.

 – The Collaborative for Student Success released a statement that said the decline in reading results must “sound an alarm and serve as a call to action.”

 – The Education Trust-West’s Elisha Smith Arrillaga wrote about the persistent gaps in achievement being a function of systems of injustice rather than disparate ability.

 – The Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli largely attributed the bleak results to the Great Recession.

 – In addition to Petrilli, Education Next featured analysis from six leading policy thinkers.

 – Veteran educator Peter Greene argued against the dispositive power of data from tests like NAEP, writing “data is not magical.”

 – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos described the nation’s performance as a “student achievement crisis.”

 – Success Academies CEO Eva Moskowitz struck a similar tone by calling for “acknowledgment of the calamitous underachievement of millions of children.”

 – Author Doug Lemov hypothesized that “screen proliferation and addiction” might be a culprit for the decline in performance, echoing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

To be clear, there’s no way to draw causal inferences from NAEP, but the biennial ritual of Monday morning prognostication—for better or for worse—wouldn’t be possible without standardized tests. Which bring me to what I thought was the best observation courtesy of the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s Robin Lake:

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