Several days ago I wrote about a senator taking to the floor of the senate to denounce the latest Alabama scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As I pointed out, he did not bother to look at trend lines and instead, only singled out scores from one test year.
Most of us have tried to lose weight at some time. (But for me, not lately.) Let’s say that we’ve worked hard so far in 2016 and have now lost 20 pounds. However, we had a wee too much to eat last Easter Sunday and when we hopped on the scales Monday, we were one pound heavier than the day before. Should we pitch a fit about just that one day and declare that our diet is a total and complete failure?
I suppose only if we are in the Alabama Senate and trying to make the numbers tell a pre-determined story (that our public schools are going backwards.)
So I looked at our NAEP scores again and looked again at how we are doing on our diet since the first of the year, not just on the Monday after a big Sunday dinner. I found that if you look at Alabama scores for 4th grade reading and math back to 1992 and at 8th grade reading back to 1992 and 2002 (as far back as info on the national NAEP site goes for 8th grade reading) you find that GAINS in Alabama have EXCEEDED national gains in all four cases.
In 4th grade math, we went up 23 points, nationally the gain was 21 points. In 8th grade math, we went up 15 points, while the national increase was 14 points. For 4th grade reading, Alabama increased 10 points, the national gain was 6 points. And for 8th grade reading, we gained 6 points and the gain nationally was 3 points.
And here is something especially interesting. The proposed RAISE/PREP Act says we will use something called VAM (Value Added Model) process to determine how good our teachers are and how we can adjust education to make more rapid gains.
The first VAM was created by Dr. William Sanders in Tennessee and was put into use in the Volunteer State in 1992. The proponents of this very inexact methodology want us to believe it is the best thing since sliced bread. And since Tennessee has been using it for 14 years, they must be blowing our doors off down here in Alabama.
Well, not so fast. Truth is that when you compare NAEP scores in Alabama to those in Tennessee you see that reading scores for our 4th graders have risen more from 1992 until 2015 than their counterparts in Tennessee. Same for 8th grade reading scores from 2002 to 2015.
Of course, this hardly fits the narrative of those non-educators wanting to tell our teachers and school how to do things. But then, facts can be troublesome at times and often get in the way of political agendas.