Here are the math proficiency rates for grade 4 and grade 8 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 only around one in three fourth grade students and barely more than one in five eighth grade students in Jefferson County were proficient in math.
That overall situation is pretty 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 adequate math preparation according to the NAEP scores.
By the way, those eighth grade NAEP proficiency rates in math agree very closely with the percentage of our students who score at or above the ACT EXPLORE test’s “Benchmark Scores” that indicate reasonable preparation for college. I talked about this back in April.
I bring this up now because some educators complain that the NAEP proficiency level is set too high, usually because the NAEP results don’t paint a very nice picture of our school performance. I expect those sorts of comments will pop up in Louisville, too.
Well, 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 is linked to real student performance in a typical US college – indicates that the NAEP proficiency level has very significant meaning. 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.