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Knowledge Base

Overhauling the Nation’s Report Card

What is NAEP?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides important information about student achievement and learning experiences in various subjects. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP has provided meaningful results to improve education policy and practice since 1969. Results are available for the nation, states, and 27 urban districts.

NAEP is a congressionally mandated program that is overseen and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the US Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. The National Assessment Governing Board, an independent body appointed by the Secretary of Education, sets NAEP policy.

To learn more, visit the NCES website here.

Does the diversity of the United States affect its educational outcomes?

The diversity of the population is not the reason why the United States does poorly in international comparisons. If you compare advantaged populations in the United States to their counterparts in other countries, the proficiency gap gets a little smaller but remains quite large. Comparing White students in the United States to other countries, or comparing students from college-educated families, shows that the gap remains. Not even half of the students from US college-educated families are proficient in mathematics. And children of college-educated parents in our highest-testing state (Massachusetts) still trailed all students in Hong Kong and Singapore. That even relatively advantaged groups in American society do not generate a high percentage of students who achieve proficiency in math suggests that schools are failing to reach students effectively.

What have school districts done right and done wrong when it comes to student achievement?

The effectiveness of schools is highly dependent on the quality of teachers within each school. Schools that have been able to hire and retain very able teachers have done well. But schools that have not done so have lagged. It turns out that we currently do not have good teacher evaluation policies, and where good evaluations exist we seldom use that information to make personnel decisions. The research suggests that this unfortunate situation stops us from the overall improvement that we would like. To be clear, most teachers are effective and should be retained. Moreover, teachers are certainly not responsible for all of the problems of achievement that we see. Teachers are just one element of a child’s learning. On the other hand, we also know that effective teachers can solve many of the achievement problems—they can be the answer.