The 2009 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math tests were released this morning, and there will be a lot to discuss.
On a somewhat happy note, Kentucky is one of a handful of states to show overall improvement in fourth grade math.
However, we went nowhere with our NAEP eighth grade math scores, which have not changed from 2007, the last time the NAEP was given.
Furthermore, even the fourth grade news must be tempered by the fact that the rest of the country now takes the NAEP with a significant handicap. Many other states have significant and growing minority student populations, which makes it easier for Kentucky to show improvement on NAEP. Because the other racial groups get much lower NAEP scores than whites do, Kentucky’s relatively high white population tends to make us look good on superficial analysis of NAEP scores when we actually need to be more cautious about the results.
For example, the new NAEP report card shows that in the 1992 NAEP fourth grade math test 90 percent of the Kentucky students were white. In the new 2009 results that percentage has declined only seven points to 83 percent.
Compare Kentucky’s relatively stable population demographics to the national white percentages tested in those two years. Across the nation, the percentage of fourth grade whites tested by the NAEP plummeted from 72 percent to only 54 percent between 1992 and 2009.
In some states such as California and New Mexico, the percentages of students NAEP tested back in 1992 that were white were 50 percent and 45 percent, respectively. In 2009 those percentages sagged to only 28 percent in both states. In these states whites are now a minority, while Hispanics comprise more than 50 percent of the student samples NAEP tested in 2009 in these states and in Texas, as well. And, many of those Hispanic kids are still learning English, while in Kentucky the numbers of English Language Learners, as NAEP defines them, are very, very low at only around three percent.
In fact, half of the states now have a double-digit percentage of Hispanic students in their 2009 NAEP fourth grade math samples. There were only nine states that participated in the 1992 NAEP fourth grade math assessment that had double-digit Hispanic populations.
So, watch out for those who try to make too much out of the fourth grade improvement. It’s not hard to win a battle when all the competition is fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.
And, stay tuned for more. We’re going to see that our Kentucky Core Content Test is still returning highly inflated math scores, and we’ll also talk about an interesting paradox in the male versus female scores on NAEP and our own tests.