naep falls
From Education Week on 2015 NAEP results


Education Week writes:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a semi-autonomous testing arm of the government, reported Tuesday that average math scores dipped both in the fourth and eighth grades between 2013 and 2015. This was the first recorded decline since the agency began collecting student sampling data in 1990.


The above graphic explains the meaning of this drop, in which governmental officials don’t attribute it to the Common Core standards, rather, it might be due to rapid curriculum changes.  What contributed to the need for rapid curriculum changes?  Education Week attributes it to the new classroom lesson guides to reflect the new national standards.   

How can this be?  We have been assured time and again by that the standards did not dictate what curriculum should be used for the national standards:

ccss curriculum


If states/districts don’t share aligned curriculum to national standards, then how can any comparison be valid to determine how your state compares to another state? The article reports the National Assessment’s tests are based on that agency’s own academic framework, not on the newer Common Core standards. Thus, the two systems are not perfectly aligned, though they cover much of the same academic material. 

If both systems cover much of the same academic material, then what does this dip in scores indicate?

Carol Burris explains what NAEP measures in The Washington Post:

MEW bolded certain sentences below.

Today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress score flop should come as no surprise. You cannot implement terrible education policies and expect that achievement will increase.

NAEP is a truth teller. There is no NAEP test prep industry, or high-stakes consequence that promotes teaching to the test.  NAEP is what it was intended to be—a national report card by which we can gauge our national progress in educating our youth.

During the 1970s and ’80s, at the height of school desegregation efforts, the gap in scores between our nation’s white and black students dramatically narrowed. You could see the effects of good, national policy reflected in NAEP gains.

The gaps have remained, however, and this year, the ever so slight narrowing of gaps between white and black students is due to drops in the scores of white students—hardly a civil rights victory.

It is difficult to see any real growth across the board since 2011, with math scores backsliding to 2009 levels, eighth-grade reading flat for four years, and a small uptick in fourth-grade reading that is not a significant increase from 2013, which, in turn, was not significantly different from 2011.

Considering that the rationale for the Common Core State Standards initiative was low NAEP proficiency rates, it would appear that the solution of tough standards and tough tests is not the great path forward after all. For those who say it is too early to use NAEP to judge the Common Core, I would remind them that in 2013, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used NAEP increases to do a victory dance about the states that had already implemented the Core at that time—and I never heard any reformer complain.

Two years ago, Duncan attributed  Tennessee’s, Hawaii’s and the District of Columbia’s NAEP score increases to their enthusiastic adoption of Race to the Top. Likewise, he attributed increases in Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina to their early embrace of the Common Core.

This year, the District of Columbia and Mississippi had fourth-grade score gains in mathematics, but the rest of Duncan’s superstars had mathematics scores that dropped or were flat. All of Arne’s superstar states had eighth-grade scores that dropped or did not budge.

The District of Columbia, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina had score gains in fourth-grade reading this year, but so did states like Oklahoma and Vermont that have resisted Race to the Top reforms. And in Grade 8 reading, all of Duncan’s superstars had scores that were flat or took a dive.

Colorado, a state that recently received high praise from Bill and Melinda Gates for its implementation of corporate reforms, had reading scores that were flat and math scores that significantly dropped.

NAEP scores were not the only disappointment this year. A few months ago, we saw a significant drop in SAT scores—7 points in one year alone.

Although NAEP and the SAT were not designed to align to the Common Core, they measure what the Common Core Standards were supposed to improve—the literacy and numeracy of our nation’s students. Considering the billions of dollars spent on these reforms, one would expect at least some payoff by now.

The fans of reforms are already beginning the spin. Some are blaming demographic changes (which conveniently ignores the drop in white student scores on 3 of the 4 tests), while others are attributing the stagnation to the economy (which was far worse in 2011). 

The very folks who gleefully hold public schools accountable based on scores, evade using them to evaluate their own pet policies. For those of us who had first row seats to the disruption and chaos they have caused, we have one simple message—no excuses.


Think of the Common Core assessments as tools used to determine if a product has been effective in reaching its goals.  If CCSS assessments were judged by the same parameters of effectiveness as drug trials are structured, would Common Core remain in the marketplace or get pulled for misleading advertising on the effects of this reform?


Arne Duncan stated:

“Big change never happens overnight,” Duncan said. “I’m confident that over the next decade, if we stay committed to this change, we will see historic improvements.”


Would delivering a drug not shown to be effective to a testing group be appropriate?  Why should any testing effectiveness take 10 years?  Why not 5?  Why not 15? Why not 20?  What’s magic about the decade remark?  That sounds like a Bill Gates talking point about current education reform:


bill gates 10 years

Why is this continuing failing experiment being conducted on American students and teachers?  Perhaps the testing protocol for new drugs via the FDA should be used in educational reform, as the CCSS was never based on research/data.  The talking points have been theory and there was no evidence to CCSS effectiveness.  Remember when Checker Finn likened the standards and implementation to building an airplane while it was flying?  The now resulting data (2011-2015) is showing little to no growth,  regression in test results, and if this were a new drug being tested by a pharmaceutical company, it would not gain approval as it doesn’t deliver its promises of better scores and closing the equity gap:

The mission of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is to ensure that drugs marketed in this country are safe and effective. CDER does not test drugs, although the Center’s Office of Testing and Research does conduct limited research in the areas of drug quality, safety, and effectiveness.

CDER is the largest of FDA’s six centers.   It has responsibility for both prescription and nonprescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. For more information on CDER activities, including performance of drug reviews,  post-marketing risk assessment, and other highlights, please see About the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The other five FDA centers have responsibility for medical and radiological devices, food and cosmetics, biologics, veterinary drugs, and tobacco products.

Some companies submit a new drug application (NDA) to introduce a new drug product into the U.S. Market.  It is the responsibility of the company seeking to market a drug to test it and submit evidence that it is safe and effective. A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists reviews the sponsor’s NDA containing the data and proposed labeling.





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