Student Test Scores Continue to Rise, Just As They Have For the Past 40 Years


Bob Somerby is excited. In the Washington Post this morning, Lyndsey Layton reports on the results of the latest NAEP test scores, and she forthrightly says that they “paint a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.” Bob comments:

In the highlighted passages, the Washington Post has finally confessed. At long last, it is reporting the basic story that it has obscured for so long:

The nation’s students are doing better in reading and math! NAEP data “paint a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.”

Let’s say that again: The actual data contradict the popular notion that educational progress has stalled.

Yep. Test scores haven’t been declining. Our international rankings haven’t been dropping. They just haven’t. They’ve been rising. Rising for whites, rising for blacks, and rising for Latinos. Just plain rising. 

This doesn’t mean everything is peachy; it doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of unconscionably poor achievement; and it doesn’t mean we’re spending our educational dollars wisely. We can still argue about all that stuff, just as we can argue about charter schools, direct instruction, concentrated poverty, and much more. But the backdrop for those arguments is simple: test scores have been going up for the past four decades, and that rise has continued over the past decade. Not always steadily, but nonetheless going in the right direction. I’ll even add my usual caveat for the pessimists in the audience: test scores for 17-year-olds have been mostly flat, so we still need to figure out how to keep rising test scores from washing out in later years.

Still: test scores are up! They’ve been going up for a long time! The basic charts are below. If you want to play around with the data for yourself, just click here.

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