Bruno: Why the NAEP Science Scores Are Good News
"There is no cause for optimism," Gerry Wheeler, interim director of the National Science Teachers Association wrote in a statement, because "the results show miniscule gains in student achievement." He lamented that "the majority of our eighth-grade level students still fall below the proficiency level," calling the scores "simply unacceptable."
I don't think anybody would deny that we should want our students to be scoring much higher on the NAEP, but we knew that scores were low after the 2009 test administration. The fact that scores are still too low in absolute terms isn't news, then.
And, yes, average scores for all students increased "only" 2 points since 2009. Just as with the 8th grade math and reading scores, however, that "top-line" number is somewhat misleading because demographic shifts can mask substantial improvements for student subgroups. It turns out that since 2009 we've seen statistically significant score gains for black students, Hispanic students, students of two or more races, and low-income students. (There were also gains that did not rise to the level of statistical significance for American Indian students, students with disabilities, and English learners.) I obviously would have preferred to see, for instance, our Hispanic students gain even more than 5 points, but exactly how much improvement is it reasonable to expect over a two year period?
Ultimately we knew we were starting from weak position in 2009, but we seem to have made some very real gains since then. Viewed in that light, the 2011 NAEP results seem like generally good news. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)