The best indicator of a state’s progress in math and reading are the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP). This is considered the “gold-standard” of tests. The assessments include some multiple choice tests, but also include many open-response items that require students to show their work and arrive at the correct answer rather than eliminating choices on multiple-choice items.Texas made tremendous gains on the NAEP mathematics tests in the 1990s, especially the 4th grade mathematics test. Indeed, Texas was repeatedly singled out as a leader in education reform because of these large gains. Grissmer and Flanagan (1999) studied Texas and determined that reduced class sizes, business community support, and an accountability system that disaggregated scores by race/ethnicity and student socio-economic status were largely responsible for these gains. At the Brookings Institute symposium on statewide progress, Dr.Uri Treisman and I (2000) also argued that the increased equity in the school finance system also helped drive improvement.
But what happened since then? Are we still making progress? Commissioner Robert Scott often touts that our students are ranked at or near the top of their peers when compared to other states in the nation. Indeed, this is an accurate statement. Yet–it has been an accurate statement for 20 years. Our high-ranking has little to do with what we have done lately, but everything with what we did 20 to 30 years ago.
Let’s look at how our 4th grade students are faring. Read More