Gains from Common Core, Losses from Lowest Performers

Education Next

On October 30, federal officials will release results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, in reading and mathematics for grades 4 and 8. In anticipation of the test scores, Education Next asked a series of education-policy thinkers to share what the news later this month may be.

Susanna Loeb

While the idea of making any prediction gives me the shivers (who likes to be wrong?), making predictions about NAEP results seems like a relatively safe endeavor. The best prediction about the NEAP results would perennially be, “yeah, so it’s going to look a lot like last year,” because, inevitably it does. Sure, some states or subgroups rise a bit and some fall, but overall, the country is not making the types of rapid increases in student learning that anyone would find satisfying.

That said, if I take off my glasses and squint hard at these tea leaves, I’m willing to make two small predictions.

First, I am optimistic that states that stayed the course with Common Core implementation and put some resources into building capacity in line with the standards will now realize some gains, after what likely could have been the traditional dip in scores we see from new standards and curricular implementation. One likely candidate is Louisiana, a state that has undertaken major efforts to encourage the adoption of high-quality curricula aligned to Common Core but saw its fourth graders’ scores decline on the 2017 NAEP.

Secondly, last time I wrote about the worrying pattern that while the gains in test performance in the early 2000s were driven by particularly strong gains for the lowest performing students, that pattern seemed to be reversing. I continue to worry that this year’s results will send an even stronger signal that insufficient investments are being made in the lowest performing students to help them gain the knowledge and skills that they need to flourish.