Student Performance Declines on National Tests Following Common Core Implementation

Common Core
AP Photo/AJ Mast

Results of national tests administered to approximately 600,000 students across the country demonstrate that – for the first time since the early 1990s – math scores of fourth and eighth graders have dropped. Eighth grade reading scores declined as well, and those for fourth graders remained flat.

New data released Wednesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also called the Nation’s Report Card – are especially significant because most of the students administered the biennial assessments live in states that have implemented the Common Core math and ELA standards that by now were supposed to have begun to improve student skills in these core areas and shrink the achievement gap between white and minority students.

“In mathematics, for the first time since the early 1990s, there were declines nationally in scores at both grades 4 and 8 since the last assessment,” said National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) acting commissioner Peggy Carr, Ph.D. in a statement. “Average mathematics scores were lower for students across the performance range, from high performers to lower performers.”

“At grade 8, national average scores were lower than in 2013 in both mathematics and reading and this was generally true for students across the performance range,” Carr continued. “The average grade 8 reading score was higher in 1 state; the average mathematics score did not increase in any state. Scores were lower in 26 states in either mathematics or reading, or in both subjects.”

Carr referred to the outcome as an “unexpected downturn,” according to Education Week, but added, “We’re trying not to read too much into a decline. We understand it’s a pattern that’s consistent across many of the states and distributions, but we like to see multiple years before we address it with that [high] level of concern.”

According to the data, the average score for fourth grade math declined by a statistically significant one point. Eighth-grade math scores fell two points.

For reading scores, fourth grade students saw no statistically significant change from the 2013 administration, while eighth grade scores dropped two points.

“Five years into the overhyped and academically mediocre Common Core, the 2015 NAEP data makes clear that the initiative has failed students miserably,” said Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Boston-based think tank, Pioneer Institute. He adds:

Even the nation’s highest performer, Massachusetts, has dropped out of its number one position on the eighth grade 2015 NAEP reading rankings, and overall the impact on the state has been to drive down student achievement. Together with the national data, this is a pretty damning indication of the real-life effect of Common Core’s cutting higher quality classic literature, poetry, and drama.  It’s just another example of a Beltway-driven K-12 education reform failure.

For his part, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the news “isn’t great,” but added the drop “doesn’t come as a big surprise,” reports USA Today.

Michael Petrilli, president of the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute, blamed the drop in scores on the recession.

“It makes sense,” he said. “When families are hurting financially, it’s harder for students to focus on learning.”

With regard to the achievement gap, no gains were made over the past two years, except for a shrinking in the gap between black and white students in 4th grade math.

“But it did so because white students’ scores declined in 4th grade math, and black students’ scores stayed steady,” reports Education Week. “White students’ scores declined in both 8th grade subjects as well. Black and Hispanic students’ scores were down in both math and reading for 8th grade.”


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