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National Assessment Of Education Progress Scores Low In Florida

Q&A session during National Assessment Governing Board's live webinar on Wednesday.
Q&A session during National Assessment Governing Board's live webinar on Wednesday.

The 2015 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam (NAEP) are in, and the overall results were not flattering for both Florida and for the U.S.

The report, which was released Wednesday, revealed that Florida’s eighth graders scored worse on the national math exam than their peers did two years ago - the last time NAEP exams were administered.

While this followed a nationwide trend, Florida’s drop was steeper.

The National Assessment Governing Board held a seminar Wednesday morning to discuss the report's information. The event took place at Tyler Elementary School in Washington D.C. but was also available via a live webcast.

Many states have adopted tougher Common Core standards along with tougher state-mandated tests, such as the Florida Standards Assesment (FSA) which replaced the FCAT this year. These tests have brought new attention to NAEP scores.

“We set this new goal for the country and career readiness for all kids,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“This is something we would expect to see as we transition to higher standards. I think we will begin to see improvement over time.”

The NAEP math and reading exams, which are often called The Nation’s Report Card, are administered every other year to a random sample of fourth- and eighth-graders in all 50 states. It is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in core subjects, according to the Nation’s Report Card website.

Florida’s NAEP scores rose continuously between 1998 and 2007, but have stagnated during the last few exam cycles.

While many consider the NAEP to be a high-quality test, it has its critics – many of who are unhappy with the lower scores.

Tuba Yilmaz, a University of Florida PhD student focusing on ESOL/Bilingual education, said the impact of the FSA seemed to be more powerful early this year, suggesting that students who performed poorly on the NAEP might have performed better on the FSA.

Furthermore, high-stakes tests like the FSA usually have an impact in school funding, she said.

According to the NAEP's report, Florida tied with Kansas and Pennsylvania for the biggest drop in eighth-grade math scores, with all three states losing six points to their average compared to 2013 scores.

Fourth-grade math scores didn’t show any significant change from 2013, and fourth-and-eighth grade reading scores also didn’t show any major changes.

But there were some highlights as well, with Duval County Public Schools ranked among the top districts in the country in both reading and math.

In fourth grade math and reading, Duval is ranked fourth among other large urban districts – scoring above national average.

It’s ranked second, behind Miami-Dade, for eighth grade reading and seventh in math, and Duval’s eighth graders scored above average in reading but below average in math.

Officials from the U.S. Education Department are stressing that one year does not make a trend.

“We are starting to see growth in certain areas,” Minnich said.

A report released by the Urban Institute shows a brighter picture for Florida. After making adjustments to the raw scores of each state from 2013, and taking into account demographics like poverty, race, and primary language, the Urban Institute ranks Florida fourth, while the NAEP exams in 2013 ranked Florida 30th on the tests.

The Urban Institute’s argument for the change is that some schools look worse on the NAEP than they should because their state is teaching a more varied and underprivileged group.

“Some states are ‘advantaged’ in the tests compared to Florida because they do not have the diversity that Florida has,” Yilmaz said. However, she also said that Florida’s diversity is not a disadvantage, as Florida students live in a multicultural environment.

Changes made to the 2015 NAEP scores did now show any significant changes to the adjusted rankings from 2013.

Mauhe is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.