The latest SAT scores are out today, and as I remarked to Nick Anderson at the Washington Post, education reform appears to be hitting a wall in high school.
In truth, we already knew this. The SATs aren’t even the best gauge—not all students take them, and those who do are hardly representative.
But a variety of sources show much the same thing. Twelfth-grade NAEP: Flat. Long-term NAEP for seventeen-year-olds: Flat. ACT scores: Flat. Percentage of college-ready graduates: Flat.
What makes this so disappointing is that NAEP shows respectable gains for younger students, especially in fourth grade and particularly in math. Yet these early gains seem to evaporate as kids get older.
Here’s what that looks like using data from the long-term trend NAEP for three recent student cohorts. Progress at ages nine and thirteen hasn’t translated into progress at age seventeen.
*Note: This shows, for example, that when members of the graduating high school class of 2004 were nine years old (in 1996), they scored 231 on the long-term trend NAEP. Since there was no...