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Thompson: The NAEP-NCLB Proficiency Mess


Mark Schneider, of the American Institutes of Research, tells us that the correlation between NCLB test scores and NAEP scores is .20 which is statistically insignificant.  

Schneider cites NAEP scores from the TUDA where students in 18 districts were 67% proficient across state assessments but where only 24% were proficient under NAEP. That is consistent with my state's pattern with 8th grade reading scores.  While Oklahoma's AYP for black middle school students  has increased by 22% over three years, longterm NAEP reading scores have declined by 4 points.Other places are even worse.  Schneider describes the 70 point gap between state and NAEP scores in Baltimore and Detroit, and characterizes NCLB testing as a "mess," a product of its generous exclusion rate among other things [NAEP has some exclusion issues, too]. 

Today’s blood-in-their-eyes "reformers" want to hold educators accountable for real growth without loopholes. But if districts try to deliver on that expectation without Congress fixing the assessment and ratings mess then only mathematical illiterates or adrenaline junkies will dare to lead high-poverty neighborhood schools. 


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The correlation's magnitude is not what makes it statistically significant. Statistical significance is just an indication of whether a sample measure's magnitude is likely to have occurred by chance. It has nothing to do with the practical meaning. You can have an r of .01 that is statistically significant and an r of .25 that isn't.


I don't know enough statistics to tell what is statistically significant or not, but when Mark Schneider speaks, I listen. So, in this case is he correct? If not, why not?

Besides, Schneider is not the only expert to criticize the bubble where NCLB scores are soaring while NAEP is nearly flat.

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