National Test Scores Show Students Made Little Progress

Apr 10, 2018

Frank Barnes, CMS chief accountability officer, discusses NAEP test scores
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn/ WFAE

The report card is out on how the nation, states and some urban school districts have done over the past two years. It shows that not much has changed.

The National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, test results released Tuesday show students made little progress in math and reading over the past two years. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said the percentage of proficient students here exceeded national, state and large cities’ numbers in some areas, but not by much.

NAEP 2017 test results
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn

Gwendolyn Glenn talked to "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey about the NAEP test results:

RUMSEY: Gwen, the NAEP test is given to a sampling of students nationwide every two years. How did the state and CMS do?

GLENN:  Let’s start with the fourth graders. In math, CMS outpaced the state and nation with 46 percent of its students at or above proficiency. But two years ago, that number was 51 percent.

In reading, 39 percent of students statewide are at or above proficiency compared to 35 percent nationally. CMS hit the 40 percent mark in this area, but that number is about the same as it’s been over the past few years. It also means that 60 percent of the district’s students are still struggling.

Frank Barnes, the district's chief accountability officer, said the district is not where it "needs to be."

“We recognize 40 percent is unacceptable and flat performance is not acceptable,” Barnes said. “When we look at peer districts and the country, we’re outperforming the national average, state averages and most cities. But we’re not satisfied with how we measure against other districts."

RUMSEY: Did eighth graders do any better on the NAEP test?

GLENN: Their scores are pretty flat as well. Charlotte is at the top for large cities in math over the last two years. About 41 percent of students are at or above proficiency. That beats the national and state averages, but the CMS numbers are still low.

RUMSEY: So how did eighth greaters do in reading. Any gains there?

GLENN: Actually, in reading only 30 percent are at or above proficiency. Both the state and national averages were higher, but not by much.

RUMSEY: Did the report look at gaps in terms or race and economics?

GLENN: CMS officials told us that the gaps are still there, with white students and higher income students of all races being proficient at rates of 50 percent or more. Low-income students, mostly of color, average in the low 20 percent range.

RUMSEY: Did CMS offer any suggestions on how they plan to improve these test scores?

GLENN: They said the results are not surprising to them and reflect their own data. Barnes said the strategic plan they are developing will include ways to try and provide all schools with the same resources. He even talked about a pay raise to attract and keep high-quality teachers.   

“Our initial budget proposal, which will be presented to our school board on Wednesday, will include a set of investments we believe will put better tools in the hands of our teachers," Barnes said. "[We will also] ask for a pay increase to be able to retain our most highly effective teachers and attract better teachers to share their skills with our students in Charlotte."

GLENN: Barnes did not say how much of a pay raise they will ask the board and county to approve. He also said subpar teachers will be given time to improve and grow. If they do not, he raised the possibility of firings.