Florida Students Must “Qualify” to Take the Fourth-grade NAEP
Jeb Bush wants to be president. So, it is important that he sell his Florida education reforms as a success.
However, when test-score-based education reforms are put on display, one should seek out “the rest of the story.” Such is true when Florida’s fourth-grade NAEP scores are showcased
According to a post written by Jeb Bush’s right-hand, Patricia Levesque, in October 2014, Florida has made marvelous, gap-closing gains, particularly on the fourth-grade NAEP:
Florida Minority Students Outperforming the Nation: In 2013, Florida outperformed the national average in every subgroup for fourth-grade reading.
Florida’s fourth-grade low-income readers rank first in the nation in reading.
Florida’s black fourth-grade students outperform their peers nationally by more than half a grade level in reading.
Hispanic fourth-grade students outperform the average student in 38 states and their peers by almost two full grade levels, according to NAEP reading test.
Low-income Hispanic fourth-grade student achievement improved more than one grade level from 2003-2013 according to the 2013 NAEP reading test.
Florida’s eighth-grade black students rank 7th nationally in reading and are tied with two other states for 11th in eighth-grade math.
What Levesque does not include is “the rest” of the fourth-grade NAEP story, which involves high student retention rates in third grade based upon state test results, a practice that has been part of Florida law since 2003.
Retaining students who cannot pass state tests in third grade artificially “improves” the academic ability of Florida’s fourth graders. Bush will likely not be featuring such information as he publicly pats himself on the back for such “achievements.”
In April 2015, the Florida law regarding third grade retention was modified to allow districts to decide how to approach the issue. The change in the law does not end Florida’s third-grade retention, but it does allow for third graders scoring in the “bottom quintile” (lowest 20 percent) of state tests to be promoted if they meet one of seven possible exemptions.
For now, Bush is able to coast on fourth-grade NAEP “gains” that were arguably influenced by notable third-grade retention. As the June 2015 Orlando Sentinel notes:
For 12 years, Florida’s third-grade reading test was a high-stakes part of elementary school life.
Third-graders who failed the exam could be denied promotion to fourth grade, as nearly 16,000 were statewide last year. [Emphasis added.]
What one must also consider is who, exactly, is being retained. It seems that “gap closure” on the fourth-grade NAEP is further influenced by the likelihood that children of color are the ones most likely to be retained in third grade. (See here and here and here.)
Via its third-grade retention law, it is as though Florida has its students “qualify” to take the fourth-grade NAEP– certainly an important part of “the rest” of the Jeb Bush ed reform story.