(Ethnicmajority) Conventional wisdom (and the media) would lead you to believe that the quality of American schools is bad and getting worse. According to data analyzed by the Huffington Post from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), test scores in math and reading have actually improved from 1971 to 2008. On the 0-500 scale the NAEP uses, 9-year-olds improved by 24 points in math, 12 points in reading. 13-year-olds gained 15 points in math, 5 points in reading, while 17-year-olds gained only 2 points in math, 1 point in reading.
More interesting is the improvement by African American and Hispanic students. While the reading score for white 17-year-olds increased only 4 points, the increase was 28 points for African Americans, and 17 points for Hispanics. For all three age groups, African, Asian, and Hispanic American students improved more than the average.
While this all seems like good news, the article doesn’t address some key questions. First, it doesn’t say what the base scores were in 1971. According to the NAEP website, in 1971 the base reading score for 9-year-old whites was 214 vs. 170 for blacks, a gap of 44. In 2008, whites were at 228 and blacks at 204, so while the gap had narrowed to 24, it still is a significant gap.
And second, this is a national test, and hasn’t been administered in other countries. Recent rankings put American schools near the bottom in comparison to all other developed countries. So while it is good to see minority students narrowing the achievement gap, there is clearly still plenty of room for improvement.