Tag Archives: NAEP


I remember professional learning with Emily Calhoun where we discussed how the “title” of any book was the promise the author makes to the reader about what the book will be about. A book is bigger than an article in a newspaper or a magazine. Is a headline similar? This lead me to some research about headlines and the types, functions, and even the definitions. Scacco and Muddiman in “The Current State of News Headlines” report four functions of headlines.

The news headline can serve a variety of functions, including story summarization, interest generation, immediacy satisfaction, and attention direction. (Link)

    • Story summarization
    • Interest generation
    • Immediacy satisfaction
    • Attention direction

Consider this headline. Which function fits?

Results are in: Mississippi students No. 1 in the country for reading gains

Do you know enough to make a decision?

This headline was published in Mississippi Today and according to its website,

Mississippi Today is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) news and media company with a forward-facing mission of civic engagement and public dialog through service journalism, live events and digital outreach. (Link)

Does that descriptor of the publication change your mind about the function of this particular headline?

The first paragraph of this article says,

Mississippi was the only state in the country to improve reading scores, and was number one in the country for gains in fourth-grade reading and math, according to newly released test results.

and yes, it was published the day after the NAEP results were released. (Link)

Has your view of the FUNCTION changed based on a) additional knowledge about the publisher; b) the knowledge of date of publication; and/or c) the first paragraph of the publication?

Which best fits your thinking?

    • Story summarization
    • Interest generation
    • Immediacy satisfaction
    • Attention direction

Why does it matter?

P. David Pearson at #ILA19 was a panel member for a Saturday 7 a.m. session titled: “What Research Says About Teaching Reading and Why that Still Matters.” Dr. Pearson proposed several rules for our work and I have been considering this first rule over the last two months as I have read across Twitter, blogs and newspapers.

Rule 1:  Policymakers have to read beyond the headlines.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that teachers, administrators, college instructors, parents, and anyone in the U.S. REALLY needs to read beyond the headlines. But careful attention is required particularly in the field of reading, reading instruction, and any “claims” in the headlines about reading pedagogy.

What does this article tell us?

Gains in 4th grade reading in Mississippi.

Only state with gains in 4th reading.

No gains in 8th grade reading in Mississippi.

The gain was 4 points.

“The 2019 results mark the first time Mississippi has met or outperformed national averages.” (In 1992, Mississippi was 16 points below the national average.)

Mississippi scores declined from 2009 to 2013.

And the “credit” for the “increase in scores”:

The Mississippi Department of Education attributed the some of the continued success in reading scores to the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, a law that went into effect in 2013 that requires third-graders to pass a reading test before they can be promoted to the fourth grade.

Do those facts match up with the function of the headline?

For additional practice let’s consider a second view of the Mississippi scores found in this blog post from Paul Thomas last week.

Mississippi Miracle or Mirage?:

2019 NAEP Reading Scores Prompt Questions, Not Answers


Which function matches this headline?

    • Story summarization
    • Interest generation
    • Immediacy satisfaction
    • Attention direction

And here’s the first paragraph of the blog post.

There is a disturbing contradiction in the predicted jubilant response to Mississippi’s outlier 4th-grade results from the 2019 NAEP reading test. That contradiction can be found in a new article by Emily Hanford, using Mississippi to recycle her brand, a call for the “science of reading.”

What do you believe is the purpose of this headline?  Is it similar to the previous article?  Or different?

Dr. Thomas then quotes two paragraphs from E Hanford’s own post:

The state’s performance in reading was especially notable. Mississippi was the only state in the nation to post significant gains on the fourth-grade reading test. Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.

What’s up in Mississippi? There’s no way to know for sure what causes increases in test scores [emphasis added], but Mississippi has been doing something notable: making sure all of its teachers understand the science of reading.

Paul answers Hanford’s claim that “there’s no way to know for sure” with

To be fair, there is a way to know, and that would be conducting scientific research that teases out the factors that can be identified as causing the test score changes in the state.

Scientific research . . .

A broader look at the data suggests that in 1998, Mississippi was only 10 points below the national average. What changed to cause growth between 2005 -2009?

Screenshot 2019-12-07 at 8.59.17 PM

Blog post Source Link


Facts/Questions from this article:

Is the 2013 legislation responsible for any growth? What research supports this hypothesis/generalization?

Is this the role of NAEP data? Should it REALLY be?

What about the 8-point jump in 4th-grade reading in MS from 2002 to 2009 with no explanation?

Original author Hanford used correlation (not scientific) instead of causation (scientific).



No research?

No evidence?

In any informational text, the information that is included is always critical.  But equally important (Hat tip to Katie Clements) is the information that is left out. And the questions that remain after reading the articles. One place for readers to begin in with the promise of the headline, the match between the headline and the article content, and the basic functions of a headline are one entry point.

Did the articles match up to the “hype” of the headlines?

Did they serve the function?

Why is P. David Pearson’s rule about headlines important?


Skinner, K. Results are in: Mississippi students No. 1 in the country for reading gains.  Retrieved from https://mississippitoday.org/2019/10/30/results-are-in-mississippi-students-no-1-in-the-country-for-reading-gains/ on December 7, 2019.

Thomas, PL. Mississippi Miracle or Mirage?: 2019 NAEP Reading Scores Prompt Questions, Not Answers. Retrieved from https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/mississippi-miracle-or-mirage-2019-naep-reading-scores-prompt-questions-not-answers/ on December 7, 2019.

#SOL19: “Testing, 1, 2, 3”

Which season of the year is it?

Do I hear the echo of “Testing 1, 2, 3” as a microphone check from the press box before the announcer begins pre-game festivities?  Or do I hear “Testing 1, 2, 3” as a part of Test Prep?

As an elementary student, I loved multiple choice assessments.  Yes, those ovals were sometimes a challenge.  Filling them in neatly.  Not over-coloring.  Staying inside the lines.

On testing days my bifocals would get a work out because I would literally almost put my nose on the passages as I absorbed the stories.. I put my heart and body into those tests and I loved getting the scores back because I would be praised for my work.

Because I scored well.  I was typically able to make good guesses when I narrowed down the choices.  Because I read quickly, I always had enough time to double check the passage to verify my answers. I agonized over my  answers and spent time trying to do my very best work.

When tests are used to SORT students, it’s really hard to figure out if groups of students are actually progressing.  And labels don’t help.

Case in point:  NAEP Scores

Let’s look at a few characteristics of the NAEP test that is used as the “Nation’s Report Card”.


Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, or Advanced.

But what does this label tell me? Here is what “Basic” looks like for 4th Grade:

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 10.24.45 PM

Many of the tasks listed in CCSS RL4.1-3 and RI.4.1-3 are included in “Basic” level.  The NAEP page even contains a caution: “It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).”        -Source

Why then does everyone think that “Proficient” is the goal?

Screenshot 2019-08-24 at 2.53.16 PM.png

So “below basic” still means a student can “demonstrate a literal understanding of what they read, understand a main idea from expository text, or follow a simple plot. “Below Basic” does not mean that the students cannot read.  And that is worth repeating.

“Below Basic” does not mean that the students cannot read. 

I’m not saying that high expectations and goals are not a part of our targets.  But what I am asking you to do is think about the criteria, who sets it, and what they have to gain by reporting that “education is failing” as the press seems to quite often do.

Let’s take a bit of time to explore NAEP assessments.


Each test item in reading is labeled as one of these three:

  •  locate/recall,
  • integrate/interpret, or
  • critique/evaluate.

And the NAEP website shows this:

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 9.09.00 PM.png

So by percentage distribution (and for the sake of a conversation with 10 questions as an example):

2 out of 10 are locate/recall

6 out of 10 are integrate/interpret and

2 out of 10 are critique/evaluate

So what does this look like?  Are they all multiple choice (multiple guess) questions?   Here’s a released sample from 2017 for fourth grade.   You can check out additional samples or grade levels.

As you check out the sample, think about the skills and strategies that you, a proficient reader, use when you are reading.

Here are a few I thought of:

  • preview the questions before beginning
  • reread when stuck
  • be sure to check out headings
  • what do I need to remember about folk tales?
  • wonder the impact of character’s names
  • ask questions:  What exactly is a “merchant”?
  • reread to eliminate mc answers
  • reread to affirm possible multiple choice answers
  • reread to check your spelling for a constructed response

What is the ratio of the work that you ask students to do in your classroom on a daily basis?  Is it

  • 2 out of 10 are locate/recall
  • 6 out of 10 are integrate/interpret and
  • 2 out of 10 are critique/evaluate?


How much does the content of the assessment matter?  How would you explain this to your students?  Your fellow teachers?  Your community?  How are you thinking you would fare on this assessment?

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 9.08.06 PM

And of course, the assessment is timed.  Readers have 30 minutes to read one story and respond to 10 questions.  They can reread.

But they seldom do.

They can reread, but they seldom do.

What is the thinking that students need to be able to do to be successful on this test? 

What is the thinking that students need to do to be successful in life?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

Screenshot 2019-01-29 at 3.12.16 AM.png


NAEP’s “proficient” is set considerably higher than grade level, as noted on the NAEP site. (This is a lesson that has to be relearned as often as NAEP scores are released.) – Peter Greene

NAEP is extraordinarily clear that folks should not try to suggest a causal relationship between scores and anything else. Everyone ignores that advice, but NAEP clearly acknowledges that there are too many factors at play here to focus on any single one. – Peter Greene

Volume of Reading? How much is “enough”?

How much reading should a second grader be doing daily? (both in and out of school)

  • a. 1 leveled book
  • b. 1 leveled book and 1 book of choice
  • c. 1 leveled book and content reading across the day
  • d. I don’t know
  • e. None of the above


Second graders are often reading Magic Tree House books.

Do these look familiar?



Amount and Type of Reading

Wide reading will help students grow their vocabulary, develop stamina, increase background knowledge, and improve fluency. One controversial recommendation from the Common Core says that students need to read more informational text. The Common Core State Standards follow the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) recommendations for informational text ratios:  50 percent in elementary school, 55 percent in middle school, and 70 percent in high school. (Across the ENTIRE day for ALL students!) Texts can be chosen to align with state social studies and science standards or to address topics that students find interesting.  A wide variety of texts can be found online at sites like:   Text Project, Readworks or Reading A-Z.  You will have to decide how those texts also meet the “text complexity” requirements of CCR Anchor Standard 10.  Your public library,  school, or AEA media specialist will be able to provide information about how to find interesting articles online.  Your district may subscribe to national databases that will allow you to download articles. In many cases, these databases also include a complexity score by grade level (which is one part of “text complexity”).  In Iowa, these databases are available through AEA Online.


How much reading should a second grader be doing daily? (both in and out of school)

  • a. 1 leveled book
  • b. 1 leveled book and 1 book of choice
  • c. 1 leveled book and content reading across the day
  • d. I don’t know
  • e. None of the above

And the answer is, . . . drum roll, please . . .  *

According to Lucy Calkins, a second grader reading approximately 100 words per minute needs to be reading the equivalence of  TWO Magic Tree House books EVERY day in order to be reading enough print and encountering enough vocabulary words to be on track to meet the grade level standards and accelerate learning to meet the promise of the  Common Core at the end of second grade.

The answer is e. None of the above   (2nd grade – TWO Magic Tree House books every day!)

How are your students doing?  Are they on track?  How can you incorporate more reading “across the day” for your students in order to “accelerate” their learning?  What questions do you have about this amount of text for second graders?

(*Presentation titled Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Student Achievement, Lucy Calkins, 01/25/2013. Chicago, IL: New York Teachers College: TRWP.)

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