“(S)tate samples are relatively small, and thus scores tend to fluctuate more than national scores,” Kloosterman said. “In 2000, Indiana was 9 points above the national average in math, but that dropped to 4 points above in 2007 and 2009 before going back to 9. In reading, Indiana has fluctuated from 2 to 5 points above the national average since 2000.”
Claire Fiddian-Green, director of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a newly created state agency, said the NAEP results also show room for progress. “Our workforce needs tell us we have to do better in preparing our students for successful careers, so it’s critical for all of the state’s efforts to support education innovation and the hard work undertaken every day by Indiana educators and community partners to embed continuous improvement and innovation in our classrooms.”
Indiana’s modestly rising marks reflect progress made by students around the nation, but U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said the pace of progress isn’t moving fast enough.
“We’re not seeing transformational change but modest progress,” Duncan said, in a call to reporters Wednesday during a preview of the test results.
The NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card, is seen as a reliable gauge of K-12 academic progress since it’s given to a large cross-section of students. The test has been administered to public and private school students by the U.S. Department of Education every two years since the 1990s.
An Indiana high school teacher who sits on the NAEP board said the state’s upward trend over the last 13 years in encouraging, but he also echoed Duncan’s concerns about the modest nature of the gains.
“Scores have increased since 1990 with the 2013 average scores for both grade levels being higher than all previous years,” said Dale Nowlin, who teaches math at Columbus North High School. “There has been a significant shift in the positive direction for all achievement levels.”