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Opinion: Be Cautious About Over-Valuing NAEP Scores When Judging Policy Effectiveness

Why to be Cautious About Over-Valuing NAEP Scores When Judging Policy Effectiveness

Those in the education field will hear a lot about the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ latest scores from the low-stakes test it distributes to the nation’s fourth-and eight-graders in the following weeks- but The Seventy-Four warns against over-valuing the results when it comes to policy changes.

For one, "NAEP scores, on their own, offer no comparison (or ‘control') group by which to judge specific policies or even packages of policies. Remember eighth-grade science class? To make causal inferences, there must be both a treatment group and a control group,” The Seventy-Four said.

"As an example, let’s say Wednesday brings good news in the form of higher NAEP scores. Reformers will claim their policies are working — but how do we know? Maybe scores would have been even higher if a different set of policies were pursued. Maybe scores went up for reasons entirely unrelated to reform policies. We simply can’t say.”

In other words- the immediate backlash against Common Core that many opponents are using as a reason behind lagging math scores this year is impossible to support with reliable evidence.

Additionally, The Seventy-Four holds fault with saying that state improvements in NAEP test scores means the state itself is significantly improving its education system.

“…the fourth- graders who took the test in 2013 are not the same fourth-graders who took the last NAEP years earlier. In other words, all we can say is that one group of students has a higher average score than a completely different group of students from a couple years ago.”

The Seventy-Four warns others to be careful when interpreting NAEP test data, because many people will use the data to benefit their own interests without much merit behind it.

That is not to say that NAEP tests and scores are frivolous.

"They are genuinely important indicators about whether students across the country are learning more math and reading than past students. And although raw data cannot be used to judge specific policies or policymakers, it is absolutely reasonable to make hypotheses about policy that can then be tested rigorously.”

Read the full article here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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