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NAEP Scores for 17-Year-Olds Flat Since 1970s

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The long-term trend data for the National Assessment of Educational Progress was released today and the news is not good for students in high school. Average scores have remained flat for 17-year-olds both in reading and math since the early 1970s, when the assessments were first given. The scores for 17-year-olds in reading, however, did increase by three points, to 286, from 2004 to 2008, which is considered significant. But the same was not true for 17-year-olds in math. The scores remained stagnant for that age group in math during that same period.

Written statements are starting to flow into my e-mail inbox in response to the NAEP data.

Update: A statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan doesn't mention the stagnant scores among 17-year-olds at all. Here's what he says:

We’re pleased to see some recent progress among all age groups in reading and among younger age groups in math. We’re also pleased to see achievement gaps shrinking in reading, but we still have a lot more work to do. Our focus on raising standards, increasing academic rigor and improving teacher quality are all steps in the right direction.

Here's an excerpt from a statement by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House and Education Labor Committee:

In light of the staggeringly high dropout rate and growing threats to our nation’s competitiveness, closing the achievement gap and building world-class schools for all students must be a top priority. Overall, this report is further proof that we must do better. While it’s good news that younger students are making meaningful gains in reading and math, it’s deeply troubling that many high school students are not.

A statement from Andrew J. Coulson, the director of the the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom, is more strongly worded. I post an excerpt here:

The latest NAEP results reveal a productivity collapse unparalleled in any other sector of the economy. At the end of high school, students perform no better today than they did nearly 40 years ago, and yet we spend more than twice as much per pupil in real, inflation-adjusted terms. I can’t think of any other service that has gotten worse during my lifetime.

Update: Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner for the assessment division of the National Center for Education Statistics, is answering questions about the long-term trend results today at a "statchat." The chat starts at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Questions can be submitted beforehand.

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After 6th grade, the curriculum changes and reading is no longer important. Students are exposed to textbooks in subjects where actual reading of the text is not important and can very well be impossible for many students. English is also limited to books and readings that are considered important and the reading of books for pleasure is marginalized and pushed to the side. Many of the books I read in school in the 1970s are the same books being read now in school. There has been barely any change. What I do remember as being pleasurable was a choice in courses I could take. In NYS now, students take a general English course throughout high school except for a chance in senior year or AP courses. My teachers were able to offer quarter long courses in topics they were interested in and taught with relish. I took Death, American literature, Mysteries, Film, even a course which was solely independent reading with a combination of written and oral reports. I still remember that well. Any general English course I took was bland. I remember the books I had to read but have no memory of the teachers or a feeling of pleasure from the course.

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