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Fordham Math Grades Vs. NAEP Math Achievement

Everybody knows that I can barely count, much less do statistical regressions, but I do know some folks who are good at that stuff. Having looked at that recent Fordham report on state achievement levels, one of them sent in handy-dandy spreadsheet that -- I'm told -- shows a negative relationship between the grades Fordham give the states on math and NAEP performance on math. "The higher the Fordham score, the lower the NAEP score." You can see the spreadsheet here.

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UPDATE: The quick-response team at Fordham says that changes over time, demographic differences between states, and the alignment of the math NAEP with the NCTM standards explain the above. Click below for the details.

From Fordham:

First, you obviously have to look at change over time on the NAEP, not just a snapshot, if you want to make the case that any state policy is correlated to achievement. Otherwise you’re just picking up demographic differences state-to-state. Since many of the northern states (bordering Canada) have relatively wealthy and white populations, with relatively high achievement, they do well on NAEP. And most of these states have also blown-off standards-based reform. So yes, they tend to score poorly on our reviews. But the real test is whether students are making progress—especially minority and low-income students. Here, California and Massachusetts stand out as making significant recent gains—and have some of the best standards in the country according to us.

Second, math is a bit of a special case, perhaps because Tom Loveless is right and the math NAEP test is very much aligned with NCTM. Thus, states that align with NCTM see their scores go up on NAEP. Since we think NCTM is not so great, you have this weird inversion. That’s why it’s so important that NAEP be an unbiased barometer, which might not be the case in math.

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