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NAEP Gives

At Equity Forum, a Proposal to Measure Readiness for Citizenship, Appreciation of the Arts, Health Preparation, Vocational Skills

Researchers Also Provide New Measures of Achievement Gap for Blacks and Latinos

February 19th, 2008 -- The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, the benchmark federal testing program) provides “a distorted picture of achievement” because it focuses chiefly on basic academic skills and critical thinking, while ignoring areas such as the development of citizenship, appreciation of the arts, and career and occupational development.

So contends Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute in a newly released report, “Reassessing the Achievement Gap: Fully Measuring What Students Should Be Taught in School.” Rothstein – who co-authored the report with Rebecca Jacobsen of Michigan State University and Tamara Wilder, a doctoral student at Teachers College – also argues that because NAEP does not measure student outcomes post-high school (for instance, whether graduates vote, maintain physical fitness, or read independently) it fails to determine the ultimate success of pre-K—12 education.

Rothstein and his co-authors call for NAEP to expand its scope in 36 states in which there are high concentrations of disadvantaged youth, as well as in ,

Rothstein will speak this Thursday, February 21st, at 3:30, at Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, in Milbank Chapel , as part of the “Equity and Education Forum Series” presented by TC’s Campaign for Educational Equity.  Both Rothstein and and Teachers College faculty member Francisco Rivera-Batiz will report new data comparing the education outcomes of blacks and Latinos to whites.

Rothstein will discuss an assessment tool that he, Jacobsen and Wilder are developing that models many aspects their proposal for an expanded NAEP. The tool, which the researchers are calling a “Report Card on Comprehensive Equity,” quantifies disparities in outcomes for young adults ages 17-25 across eight broad goal areas that the Report Card’s creators argue “have historically been central to Americans’ conception of education and youth development.” These include social skills and work ethic; readiness for citizenship and community responsibility; foundation for lifelong physical health; foundation for lifelong emotional health; appreciation of the arts and literature; and (for those not destined for academic college) preparation for skilled work. Overall, Rothstein, Jacobsen and Wilder find that the average achievement of white students across these eight goal areas stands at the 56th percentile nationally -- some 18 percentiles higher than that of the average black student.

Rothstein argues that an expanded national assessment effort that focuses on a set of educational goals such as these is consistent with the original charter of NAEP. Such goals were in fact dropped from NAEP’s scope during the 1970s purely for budgetary reasons, he points out.

“State should be able to use the information on young adult achievement provided by such data to judge whether resources should be increased, or whether resources should be utilized differently,” they write.  “With NAEP so redesigned, states may be inspired to hold schools and school districts accountable for the broader range of outcomes that Americans want from their schools and other institutions of youth development.”

Rothstein, Jacobsen and Wilder emphasize that their Report Card focuses only on the black-white achievement gap because of the unique nature of the disparity between these two populations.

“Seven generations after the abolition of slavery, there is no shame of the nation greater than that of our failure to fully integrate black citizens into the mainstream of American society,” they write. In addition, they argue that assessing the achievement gap between, say, whites and Latinos, would pose a more complex problem, because any evaluation would need to disentangle recent immigrants from Latinos who are fully assimilated. 

The full text of the Report Card on Comprehensive Equity can be viewed at http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/racial_gaps.

In his report, Rivera-Batiz finds that Latinos -- now the nation's largest ethnic and racial minority -- trail other major ethnic groups in years of schooling completed, school enrollment rates after age 15, enrollment and completion of four-year college, literacy and advanced literacy, SAT scores, pre-K enrollment, and earnings from age 16 onward. These shortfalls, in turn, reflect the fact that Latinos have the lowest average socioeconomic status of the major ethnic groups, attend the most racially segregated schools and receive the poorest quality education.

The presentations delivered through the “Equity and Education Forum Series” aim to summarize the state of knowledge in 12 fields related to closing the nation’s school achievement gap and identify areas for future inquiry. The Equity and Education forums cover topics ranging from multilingualism and pre-K education to schools within schools and public health. 

At the next forum, to be held at the College on March 5th at 3:30, Michael Rebell, Executive Director of The Campaign for Educational Equity, will present findings from Moving Every Child Ahead : From NCLB Hype to Meaningful Educational Opportunity, the new book he has co-authored with Campaign Policy Director Jessica Wolff. Jack Jennings, President of the Center on Education Policy, will respond to Rebell’s presentation.

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The Campaign for Educational Equity, based at Teachers College, Columbia University,  is committed to expanding and strengthening the national movement for quality public education for all by providing research-based analyses of key education policy issues. The Campaign promotes educational equity through focused research, raising awareness of equity issues within Teachers College and to external audiences, rapid dissemination of research and relevant information, and demonstrations of improved policy and practice.


Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation. Teachers College is affiliated with , but it is legally and financially independent. The editors of and World Report have ranked Teachers College as the nation’s leading graduate schools of education in the country.

Teachers College is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education and overcoming the gap in educational access and achievement between the most and least advantaged groups in this country. Through scholarly programs of teaching, research, and service, the College draws upon the expertise from a diverse community of faculty in education, psychology and health, as well as students and staff from across the country and around the world.

For more information, please visit the college’s Web site at www.tc.columbia.edu.


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