What the 'Nation's Report Card' Means for the Future of Education

Math and reading scores are mostly flat, and the achievement gap persists. What should education advocates do?

The latest data from the National Assessment of Education Progress, the biennial standardized test known as "The Nation’s Report Card," show that the achievement gap persists. Although student scores have improved across the board since the test was created in 1990—particularly in math—white students still score significantly higher than their black and Hispanic peers. And despite all of the education reform efforts aimed at improving test scores, overall student gains in reading and math are up only slightly since 2009.

Fourth grade reading scores stayed steady since 2009, while math marks increased 1 percent. Similarly, eighth graders scored about 1 percent higher in both reading and math compared to 2009. The results led Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss to quip, "Someone should be printing up a T-shirt about now that says: ‘My nation spent billions on testing and all I got was a 1-point gain.'"

Indeed, in the decade of No Child Left Behind, the nation has spent big bucks on testing students and rating schools without making a major dent in the achievement gap. President Obama’s Race to the Top competition—which has increased the number charter schools, overhauled entire schools' staffs, and doubled down on testing—hasn't solved the problem either, according to the NAEP scores. The question for education advocates now is where to go from here.

Some will argue that the reform efforts simply need more time to take effect, but budget cuts and the growing number of students living in poverty are the bigger problems. Teaching assistants that used to help tutor students have been laid off, while class sizes have gone through the roof, making it tougher for even the most skilled teacher to provide individual attention to students. And while reformers suggest solutions like flipping classrooms so students can use technology to get up to speed, too many children live without computers at home and too few schools are well-equipped technologically.

Last spring, a working group at Harvard called Futures of School Reform, concluded that the next frontier of education reform will acknowledge that our system can't "achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors." The group said this shift would happen "as an outgrowth of the same hard-nosed, pragmatic, evidence-based orientation that for the moment is supporting the unlikely claim that schools can do it alone."

This NAEP data is evidence that the group's conclusion was spot-on. It's time to step up and tackle child poverty and the systemic problems in neighborhoods at the same time we're working to improve teaching and learning. If we address the root causes of the achievement gap while fully funding our public schools, just imagine how those scores would skyrocket. But in the absence of that type of concerted approach, chances are we'll see a similar data set from the NAEP two years from now—one that tells the same disappointing story.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Liz (

Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less