In addition to separate state and federal accountability systems — the state's Academic Performance Index (API) and the requirements of No Child Left Behind — there is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federally mandated assessment of a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country. While sometimes referred to as the "Nation's Report Card," it is an unreliable method to gauge the progress of students from one state to another due to differing standards. Because the NAEP assessments are not currently aligned to California's content standards, and each state is allowed to set its own standards under No Child Left Behind, NAEP scores are an inaccurate means of comparison.
NAEP scores this year show that California's fourth-graders were higher than only two southern states and the District of Columbia, and tied with five other states. State officials say it's partly because 30 percent of California's fourth-graders who were tested were English learners, compared with 10 percent nationwide. Eighth-graders in California tested higher than only Mississippi and the District of Columbia and tied with four other states.
The fact of the matter is that nationwide scores are stagnant — and don't paint California students in a favorable light when compared to other states. But when you measure California students based on the state's standards (among the highest in the country), the results tell a different story. The state's API system says California students have been making steady progress. Still, NAEP scores have not changed significantly in California since 2007 (the last time NAEP math results were released).
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