According to its website, "The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas." Its mandate to test was included in the original No Child Left Behind legislation. NAEP tests are given to a representative sampling of about 30,000 private and public school students every two years in Grades 4, 8 and 12.
NAEP, which is administered by a federal agency that is part of the national Department of Education, periodically tests students in math, reading, science, the arts, civics, geography, U.S. history, and technical literacy. The NAEP started testing students in 1969-1970, but the design of the tests used today dates to 1992. Its current testing "partners" include the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the groups behind the national Common Core Standards, Educational Testing Service, which markets and administers the GRE and Praxis exams, and Pearson, which has a contract with NAEP to "prepare and package the assessment and all auxiliary materials; to distribute assessment booklets and materials to the test administrators for each school; to process completed student and teacher assessment materials returned from the field; to develop training and scoring materials; and to score all assessments."
The Common Core Standards were intended to define the reading and math skills that students should be able to do at each grade level. Development started in 2008. The 2016 high school graduating class was in fourth grade.
The Common Core Standards were officially launched in 2009. The 2016 high school graduating class was in fifth grade.
In June 2010 the final Common Core Standards were released to the public and state education agencies. The 2016 high school graduating class was in sixth grade.
By December 2013, 45 states and Washington DC, under pressure from the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative, had adopted the Common Core Standards for ELA/literacy and math. The 2016 high school graduating class was in tenth grade.
By the 2014-15 academic year, every state was required to have in place Common Core aligned assessments to ensure that students were "college- and career-ready." The 2016 high school graduating class was in eleventh grade.
In Fall 2015 the NAEP tested a representative sample of high school seniors in the 2016 graduating class. After seven years of Common Core curriculum and assessment, the NAEP tests showed:
The average performance of high school seniors dropped in math and failed to improve in reading from 2013 to 2015. Performance was also down on both tests from 1992, the first year that similar tests were used.
There was a decline in the percentage of students in both public and private schools that are rated as prepared for college-level work in reading and math. In 2013, 39% of students were considered ready for college math and 38% were prepared for college-level reading. But in 2015, only 37% were prepared for college.
Worse, while scores improved for students in the highest percentile group in reading, they dropped in reading and math for students in the lower percentiles. The number of students scoring below "basic" in both subjects also increased from 2013. These were the students that Common Core and the high-stakes testing regime were supposedly designed to support the most.
Test scores for students in 4th and 8th grade who have been trapped in Common Core classrooms with Common Core curriculum for pretty much their entire school careers showed a similar decline in math.
Terry Mazany, the chairman of the governing board for the test, called these results "worrisome."
These tests, as U.S. Secretary of Education John King concedes, are basically designed so that 70% of students will fail, with a much higher percentage among students with disabilities, English Language learners, and children who live in poverty. Fairfield University Professor and Network for Public Education Board member Yohuru Williams argues these tests, which are manifestly unfair to the neediest children, feeds into racial determinism in American society while closing doors of opportunity for Black and Latino children.
Despite claims that the new federal ESSA law reduces emphasis on high-stakes testing, companies are scrabbling to make money off of the Common Core tests. The latest big entries seeking to profit from the testing bonanza are the SAT and ACT testing companies. Thirteen states are either currently using, planning to use, or considering using these tests to satisfy ESSA mandates. Scott Marion, the executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit organization that helps states design and evaluate tests, accuses the SAT and ACT of a "land grab." He describes what is happening as a "little like the Gold Rush."
Common Core is little more than another combination miracle reading program (e.g. Hooked on Phonics, Success for All, Pearson's Reading Street) and "new math" fad that companies have been pushing in the American education market since the 1960s. None of these programs radically changes education in the United States because they do not address the fundamental problems that undermine student performance, poverty, parental unemployment or the need to work multiple jobs, substandard housing and ghettoization, school segregation, and a local funding system that channels greater dollars to schools in affluent communities. They are technical excuses not to address social and educational inequality.
Now it is Common Core's chance to fail. The Common Core Standards and Common Core aligned assessments that transformed American schools into test prep academies are failing the test and failing the kids.