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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Reality check: Was high praise warranted for state’s performance on NAEP?

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is trumpeting Washington state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests that a sample of students take every few years in selected grades and subjects.

On Wednesday, his office issued a news release with a link to hear U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praise Washington for its gains this year.

But the picture isn’t quite that simple.

Washington students’ scores did go up and, in a simple ranking, went up more than most other states.  But according to a critique by Tom Loveless, such rankings lose a lot of meaning when the tests’ margin of error are taken into account. For those who want to dive deep into the details, Loveless provides it.

For those who just want the conclusion: Washington did improve, but not as much as Duncan’s message may make it sound.  And when it comes to overall scores, it’s really only safe to say that Washington ranks somewhere in the middle.

In fourth-grade math, for example, Washington’s average score was lower than just three other states, but about the same as 17 others.  In eighth-grade math, we look to be in about the top third.

Still, that doesn’t seem to justify Dorn’s statement, in the release, that Washington “continues to outperform most other states on national assessments.”

See Washington’s NAEP profile to compare the state’s performance in other grades and subjects. (Click on Washington state, then the “compare” button on the chart.)

Comments | More in News | Topics: Arne Duncan, NAEP, Randy Dorn

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