Some Words on NAEP
Can you even write about education policy and NOT mention NAEP?
You gotta mention NAEP so you can sound smart about education policy.
Heck, I’ve done my fair share of NAEP writing over the years:
NAEP in TN: The Rest of the Story
Heck, I even explained stats to the so-called data gurus at TNDOE:
Thankfully, educator and blogger Peter Greene offers an all-purpose NAEP press release for use by, well, anyone who wants to sound smart by using data with absolutely zero context.
Greene astutely notes:
The NAEP remains a data-rich Rorschach test that tells us far more about the people interpreting the data than it does about the people from whom the data was collected. Button up your overcoat, prepare for greater-than-usual pearl-clutching and solution-pitching from all the folks who still think the pandemic shutdown is a great opportunity to do [whatever it is they have already been trying to do].
Nashville education blogger TC Weber offers a NAEP take, too:
As a Tennessean, I would pay attention to long-term trends. This year’s results put Tennessee back at the level it was at in reading in 2011, before outsize gains on the 2013 exam earned us the title of the nation’s fastest-improving state. A title that many of the state’s policy influencers, especially SCORE, have used as a means to make their bones. They’ve done so despite a consistent drop in scores since that breakout year. This is a trend that would suggest 2013 is an outlier and not a true indicator of progress.
NAEP is a gold standard of data - the test is administered randomly every other year. Ostensibly, there’s no prep for it.
Does it tell us something useful? Sure.
Can it be said that policy x is responsible for NAEP increase (or decrease) y? Not really.
Trends over time matter - that’s the utility of a valid and reliable set of data analysis. That’s NAEP.
The results from one year typically mean, well, not that much.
And, well, results showing that gains were not what would be expected after a pandemic school year are not exactly surprising.
This, of course, won’t stop privatizers and other purveyors of solutions in search of a problem from pontificating about what NAEP tells us we should do.
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