The recent release of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides results that should give all Oregonians cause for great concern. Most NAEP measures for Oregon students are disheartening. Oregon is now one of five states where the overall achievement gap widened between 2003 and 2011. Additionally, low-income students in Oregon rank among the lowest performing in the nation and have lost ground since 2003. This information invites questions that should be in the forefront of Oregon’s attempt to restructure educational delivery. What will it take to declare a statewide breakdown? What is Oregon’s commitment to close the achievement gap?
NAEP Report Overview
Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the only tool we have to assess which states appear to be making progress in academic achievement. While we recognize the limits of NAEP, simultaneously the results should not be ignored. One advantage of this national assessment is the opportunity to assess progress over time. Another dimension of interest is the opportunity to disaggregate results and examine how different student subgroups fare compared to others across the country.
Achievement Gap Results
To offer a context of Oregon’s performance and overall achievement gap, it may be instructive to compare and contrast Oregon with other states. What are the trends we see with a high investment state like Maryland? This is a state where the Governor and state leaders have made a concerted effort to increase investment in K-12 public education and identify specific state outcomes for all students. What are the differences we see in a low-investment state like Arizona, where the investment-per-pupil is one of the lowest in the nation? And how do these data compare to national averages?
Prior to examining student achievement results, we should have a look at investment and demographic indicators. The following chart offers a glimpse of some of these factors:
With these factors in mind, let’s turn our attention to Maryland, Arizona, national averages, and Oregon’s performance over the last eight years. In the charts below we see performance by all students, as well as specific subgroups identified by NAEP.
These trends are not an aberration. What we see in the fourth grade is largely mirrored in the eighth grade as well. To see the additional charts, click here.
Moving the Achievement Gap Conversation Forward
Oregon is not closing the achievement gap. Especially disturbing to us, in many cases the gap is growing wider. Why is it that students from other states, even a low investment state like Arizona, appear to be making greater progress? We have no evidence that the rates for poverty, mobility, special needs, or second language learners in Arizona are any lower than we see with Oregon students. Whether the comparison is based upon a high investment state like Maryland, a low investment state like Arizona, or broader national trends, the stark truth is that Oregon’s NAEP measures show us losing ground.
These are our children. What will it take for Oregon to declare a breakdown? When will we demonstrate the courage to take ground on specific, measurable statewide goals for our children of color? Which elected leader will step up and demand that we set a clear state goal for African American high school completion? Reducing the Latino dropout rate? Elevating the college preparedness rate for our children in poverty?
Until we set explicit statewide achievement gap goals while overtly and publicly sharing in accountability, we doom our students to continued mediocrity. At a minimum, we have an obligation to learn from other states making progress. As Oregon leaders wrestle with governance, accountability, and breaking down the barriers of adult-based silos, we cannot lose sight of our larger purpose. Ultimately, it all means nothing if we have not boldly improved learning and success for ALL kids.
Aside from these initial actions, we know more steps are needed. We invite students, parents, educators, and community members to shape this conversation and our commitment to Oregon’s students.
For more information, sign up for our email newsletter