Here are the math proficiency rates for fourth and eighth grade students in Jefferson County Public Schools from the new 2009 NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment report.
As you can see, in 2009 the NAEP said that overall only around one in three of the district’s fourth grade students and barely more than one in five of Louisville’s eighth grade students were proficient in math.
That overall situation is certainly disappointing, but for blacks in Louisville, the situation is positively grim, especially in eighth grade.
In eighth grade, only about one in fifteen black students in Jefferson County is getting well prepared in math according to the NAEP scores.
By the way, I think those NAEP proficiency rates really do mean something. The NAEP eighth grade math proficiency rate for Kentucky agrees very closely with the percentage of our students who score at or above the ACT EXPLORE test’s “Benchmark Scores.” Those Benchmark Scores are linked to reasonable preparation for college, as I discussed back in April.
I bring this up now because some educators make excuses that the NAEP proficiency levels are set too high. Those excuses come because the NAEP results don’t paint a very nice picture of our school performance. Now that Louisville has its own set of NAEP scores, I expect those sorts of comments will pop up there, too.
Before you accept that educator excuse, consider this. Most of us understand the new economy means kids need to have preparation for postsecondary education of some sort or another. So, I would argue that the close agreement between the NAEP proficiency standard and the EXPLORE Benchmark Score standard – which I repeat is related to real student performance in a typical US college – indicates that the NAEP proficiency level has very significant meaning.
The bottom line: NAEP proficiency is probably the target we need our schools to shoot for, even if they have a very long way to go to reach it.