October 19, 2005

NAEP, NCLB, and hype

Today's release of the latest 4th and 8th grade NAEP scores has brought a predictable flurry of attention focused on the tepid changes since NCLB. Quoted in the Washington Post article is Tom Loveless, pointing out that the trends look pretty similar whether you're breaking it into the pre-2002 or post-2002 data.

The immediate forecast for the rest of the day and tomorrow: considerable spinning in the wonkosphere and blogosphere. I'd rate it as Category 3 on the Spin-Simper Scale, likely to blow away brains that are not firmly tied down to reality. It's not likely to reach catastrophic spin, though.

If you do think NAEP is an accurate measure of achievement at the state level, then low-stakes and high-stakes states look more similar than different in recent years, at least on first inspection. (You can delve into trend data for states and easily compare Connecticut and Florida, which are two lines apart.) There will be considerable chewing on the data, I suspect.

And there are some reasons to be cautious about NAEP as perfectly representative. Better than alternatives? Sure. But there are differences in coverage and exclusion rates. And the various threshold points (e.g., basic and proficient) are relatively meaningless ordinal category markers. Caveat lector.

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Posted in Education policy on October 19, 2005 12:33 PM |