Given that some in Alabama are hell bent to show how bad our public schools are it is hardly a surprise when folks take things out of context and twist them any way the want to.
Take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests that a senator recently railed about on the floor of the Senate. He was upset that Alabama scores dropped slightly from 2013 to 2015.
But here is what he did not say. NAEP is often called the “gold standard” of testing because it is a way to compare schools across the nation. This test is given every two years for fourth grade reading and math and for eight-grade reading and math. Students get no grade and therefore, have no incentive to perform well.
Students and schools are picked at random. Tests are not aligned to new standards. About 2,500 students in Alabama are tested. Test is 75 minutes long. About 30 students are tested per school. Some of them must be students with disabilities and English language learners.
There are 730,000 students in our public schools. So we are judging all of them on the performance of just .003 of them.
Had the senator bothered to do his homework he would have found that fourth grade math scores were down in 16 states and up in only four in the 2015 testing cycle. He would have found that eighth grade math scores were down in 22 states. So what happened here was not an anomaly.
Had he bothered to look on the NAEP web site, he would have learned that the change is Alabama scores is not even considered statistically significant.
Had he bothered to look he would have found that since Alabama started NAEP in 1992, we have narrowed the gap between our scores and national scores in fourth grade reading and math, as well as in eighth grade reading and math.
So the truth is that we are doing better–not worse.
But then, why let the truth get in the way when you are trying to prove an invalid point?