Performance gap persists between state math tests and nation's report card

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scores released earlier this month received a somber reception here in Ohio and rightly so - student achievement in math has remained relatively flat in the eighth grade for the last decade. The NAEP is a biennial test administered to fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders by the U.S. Department of Education and is billed as “the Nation’s Report Card.”

The 2009 NAEP scores for Ohio students are virtually the same as in previous years. In 2009, 45 percent of fourth graders and 36 percent of eighth graders were considered proficient or better in math, compared to 46 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders earning a proficient rating in 2007.

These numbers become even more troubling when compared to the results from the Ohio Achievement Tests (OAT). According to 2008-09 OAT results, 71 percent of eighth graders and 78 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in mathematics. The graph below illustrates the performance gap of Ohio students between NAEP and OAT results.

Performance of Ohio Students on 2009 NAEP and Ohio Achievement Tests

Source: Ohio Department of Education interactive Local Report Card, and National Assessment of Education Progress

The Columbus Dispatch covered the disconnect between state test scores and NAEP in a recent article (read it here). A representative of the Ohio Department of Education told the Dispatch that both assessments are "… different tests with different functions. I understand where it may be confusing to try to look at them and say, ‘the numbers are so different, how can that be?"

However, Stuart Kerachsky, the commissioner of the National Center on Education Statistics said that in these circumstances, “…you can't really escape a conclusion that low performance on NAEP is a signal that there is a problem in a state that has to be examined very carefully and has to be addressed.”

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, also commented, “to have 30 percent of the youngsters proficient on the NAEP and 70 percent on a state assessment is a huge disservice to students.”

In addition to its low NAEP scores in math, the gap between Ohio’s white and black fourth or eighth graders hasn’t budged over the last decade.

These troubling indicators are a signal that it is time for Ohio to adopt common academic standards that would enable our students to compete successfully with the rest of the country and the world.  

More By Author