Our Schools Have Lost Focus on the Lowest-Performers

The new NAEP results are out. Here’s your overall summary: They’re mostly bad, with noticeable declines in reading over the last two years.

What stood out to me was the fact that we’ve lost our focus on the lowest-performing students. Zooming out to look at the last 10 years by performance level, here are the changes in 4th grade reading scores:

10th percentile: -7

25th percentile: -2

50th percentile: +2

75th percentile: +3

90th percentile: +2

And here’s the same thing for 8th grade reading:

10th percentile: -6

25th percentile: -3

50th percentile: -1

75th percentile: +1

90th percentile: +4

Here’s the same trend for 4th grade math:

10th percentile: -3

25th percentile: -1

50th percentile: +1

75th percentile: +2

90th percentile: +5

And for 8th grade math:

10th percentile: -5

25th percentile: -4

50th percentile: -2

75th percentile: +1

90th percentile: +4

This didn’t use to be true. In the 1990s and 2000s, we saw some signs of gap-closing or at least broad and shared gains. The 2010s are the opposite; it was a pretty flat decade in terms of overall achievement, with higher-performing students making some gains and pulling further away from their peers.

Back to work.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

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