The more things change, the more they stay the same—at least for seventeen-year-old achievement. According to the latest Long-Term Trend (LTT) NAEP report (released today), scores for youngsters in this age group have scarcely budged since the test was first administered in the 1970s. (Recall that the LTT report differs from the “main NAEP”: The former, given every four years, utilizes a similar battery of questions to test reading and math so that results are comparable longitudinally; the latter determines proficiency across a host of subjects, employing periodically updated frameworks and exams, hence with little potential for long-term tracking.) But there’s growth among younger pupils: Average scores for nine and thirteen year olds rose since the 1970s in both reading and math, sometimes substantially—from an eight-point gain (on a 500-point scale) for thirteen-year-old reading scores to a whopping twenty-five point gain for nine-year-old math scores. And most race- and gender-based achievement gaps narrowed—in some cases dramatically. The white-black reading gap at age nine, for example, decreased by twenty-one points; the seventeen-year-old white-Hispanic math gap shrank by thirteen points; and the female-male nine-year-old reading gap lowered by seven points. While some satisfaction should be taken from these gains by minority students (and by boys in reading and girls in math), the stunted achievement at age seventeen is more than worrisome. Will the Common Core alter this very long-term trend? The next LTT administration is slated for 2015–16.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, June 2013).

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