In the news coverage of the Texas decline, there was mention of California’s substantial lead in SAT scores. For a variety of reasons, some related to better secondary and postsecondary policies and some that have nothing to do with quality of policy, California has produced better SAT results than Texas for some time. Texas was set to make gains, but, as mentioned above, Texas gave up on the plan it adopted to do so.
Part of Texas’ hope to make gains was based on strong results its policies had generated for its younger students. These students had begun to achieve at far higher levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the mid-90s, and their gains continued through the mid-2000s. This surely portended progress as students got to higher grades.
Curious to see if Texas was maintaining this advantage at the earlier grades, I took a fresh look at NAEP comparisons and found data that were shocking to me and completely unreported in Texas. Since 2009, when Texas began to go soft on accountability, California has almost caught up with stagnant Texas.
Here’s what I found.
In 8th grade math, in 2009, Texas black students had a 22 scale score point advantage over their peers in California. By 2013, that lead was cut to 15 points. That’s considered roughly a loss of over a half of a grade level advantage. The Hispanic student lead fell from 21 points to 18. The white student advantage fell from 12 points to 9.
In 4th grade math, the Texas black student advantage fell from 14 points to 10; Hispanic, from 14 to 11; white, from 7 to 6.
In 4th grade reading, the Texas black student advantage fell from 13 points to 7; Hispanic, from 14 to 5 (roughly a loss of a grade level advantage); and white, from 5 to 1.
In 8th grade reading, the Texas black student advantage remained at 6 points; the Texas Hispanic student lead fell from 10 points to 3 (roughly a loss of over 1/2 a grade level advantage); and the white advantage stayed at 4 points.
This collapse in the advantage in results is stunning. Texas’ reforms of the 90s and early 2000s led to some of the best achievement gains in the nation. We were proud of these gains and thought that they would lead to wonderful things for our young people and our state for the future.
But we got soft on accountability, started evaluating virtually all schools with the same high ratings, demanding little from schools that were slipping, lowering standards for students and schools, and eviscerating reforms to strengthen secondary schools and promote college readiness.
The awful “trees” we began planting 5-7 years ago are now producing “rotten fruit.” We need to wake up and change course, fellow citizens.