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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.'"

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Why Alternative Education Needs to Go Mainstream

Dropouts in alternative programs get a personalized learning experience. Maybe if they had that in the first place they wouldn't leave school.

Research shows that alternative education—small learning communities, individualized, personalized instruction, a low student-teacher ratio, and support for pregnant or parenting students—works to get dropouts back on track. But ironically, notes creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, current education reform efforts like the federal No Child Left Behind Act are "rooted in standardization" even though we know that a quality education should "be about personalization."

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Is the White House Committed to Addressing the Role Poverty Plays in the Achievement Gap?

The Department of Education is allocating more money to the Promise Neighborhoods program. Is it enough to make a real difference?


More money is coming to the U.S. Department of Education's year-old Promise Neighborhoods program. Modeled after Geoffrey Canada's successful Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) initiative, the Promise Neighborhoods program awarded $10 million in 2010 to 21 mostly nonprofit and higher education-based applicants. That money funded the planning stage of comprehensive, cradle-through-college-to-career wraparound services with great schools at the center. Now, starting today, the USDOE is launching a second phase of the program and will provide $30 million to a new round of grant applicants and fund the implementation of 4-6 existing projects.

But given that 20 percent of American students live in poverty, will this limited amount of money scale up the interventions fast enough to make a difference for kids?

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