IU education expert: Few surprises from Nation's Report Card results

  • Oct. 28, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores released today offer few surprises, said an Indiana University School of Education professor who studies national and international assessment results. Scores for Indiana students did not change significantly from the last assessment in 2013, while nationwide scores declined in some areas.

Peter Kloosterman, the Martha Lea and Bill Armstrong Chair for Teacher Education and a professor of mathematics education, noted that overall results continue to show little change, suggesting steps taken under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Law have had little impact on scores.

“Certainly the lack of gain in the last 10 years suggests the accountability measures haven’t helped,” he said. “If there were gains from that, we would be seeing them now, and we’re not.”

Another factor that could be holding back progress: a slow recovery for schools and families from the recession of 2007-09. “Funding for schools and the economic well-being of families has a substantial impact on how well students do,” Kloosterman said.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly called NAEP and referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, is a national assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Math and reading tests are given in odd-numbered years to samples of students in all states.

While experts warn against drawing conclusions from year-to-year changes in the scores, the results are closely watched for state comparisons and signs of learning gains and losses.

In today’s national results, 2015 scores for eighth-grade students were lower than 2013 scores in both math and reading; scores for fourth-graders were lower in math and unchanged in reading.

Indiana eighth-graders saw a 1-point drop in math and a 1-point gain in reading, while Indiana fourth-graders saw a 1-point drop in math and a 2-point gain in reading. None of those changes were considered statistically significant given the relatively small sample of Indiana test-takers.

Scores for Indiana students continued to be at or above national averages. “And actually, given the income levels in Indiana, that’s pretty good,” Kloosterman said.

In 2013, Indiana got attention for a significant jump in NAEP scores for its fourth-grade students. Kloosterman said that was almost certainly a result of a state policy that called for schools to retain students in the third grade if they didn’t pass a standardized reading test. That meant the lowest-scoring students were held back and were not included in the fourth-grade testing sample.

In math, students across the U.S. have made significant progress since NAEP began in the early 1990s, improving by about two grade levels for fourth-graders and nearly that much for eighth-graders, according to Kloosterman’s analysis.

“But almost all of that gain was from 1990 to 2005,” he said. “There’s been very little gain since then.”

Kloosterman is available to speak with reporters about interpreting the 2015 NAEP results. He can be reached at 812-856-8147 or

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