Massachusetts Leads the Nation on NAEP…But It Isn’t Enough

Massachusetts Leads the Nation on NAEP…But It Isn’t Enough

Yesterday’s biennial release of NAEP scores show that while the Commonwealth continues to rank #1 on The Nation’s Report Card, a deeper look at the data shows we have more to worry about than to crow about.

Last week, when Massachusetts leaders celebrated 25 years of education reform with a State House program reviewing how we came to be “Leading the Nation” they also acknowledged that we continue to face persistent systemic gaps that exclude too many students from an equal opportunity to fill the jobs that will be available when they graduate.  The newest NAEP data confirms those state leaders’ concerns.

The NAEP data shows, Massachusetts has remained stagnant with scores much lower than we need them be for all our students to succeed in our knowledge-based economy. The 2017 state comparisons show us leading in 4th grade reading and math, and being outdone in those subjects in 8th grade only by the Department of Defense schools. Yet, 49% of our fourth graders do not read at proficient levels or above and 47% at the same level in math. It is also troubling that we don’t raise more students above the proficient level by 8th grade when our “nation-leading” scores leave behind 51% of students in reading and 50% in math. While Boston compares well with other large city districts, the Summary Statements show scores that similarly raise serious concerns about students preparation to join our workforce.

As I perused our state profiles, the heretical notion occurred to me that being displaced at the top of the pack would have been the kick in the pants Massachusetts needs – jolting us out of our complacency and creating the same urgency for reform we had 25 years ago. Yes, I am using the recently maligned term because “reform” is what moved us from the middle to the top of the country and “reform” is the mindset we need to take the bold action necessary to make all our students the “best in the nation.”.

MBAE’s New Opportunity to Lead provides evidence-based solutions to address our stagnant performance and close intractable gaps. The “reforms” we need involve systemic innovation rather than incremental tinkering. To start, School leaders must be granted authority over spending and staffing and be free implement innovative school models. New teacher roles and career paths and transformed teacher preparation that honors the profession, deliberate recruiting intense classroom training, and credentialing students for careers must all be priorities.. All of these reforms depend on the establishment of a student-driven funding model that prioritizes student learning and is more results oriented. As we did 25 years ago, MBAE remains committed to seeing these “reforms” through, so that we all might see the positive results reflected in future NAEP scores.

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