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Even COVID couldn't slow Florida's perpetual JebSantis NAEP collapse
As they have since at least 2003, Florida's 2022 NAEP scores peaked in 4th grade and collapsed in 8th. The likely culprits: 1) 3rd grade retention 2) Voucher kid movement 3) Deep test fatigue
Here is a moment of simple wisdom from a brilliant and decent man: Paul Cottle, Florida State University Physics professor and evangelist for K-12 Science and Math education.
With that in mind, here is a view of Florida’s 2022 NAEP scores peaking in elementary school and dramatically worsening with the older cohorts —- which is ALL of the red numbers after the green baseline.
Neither the NAEP nor the useless educrat industrial complex will ever create or show you this table. But it took me about an hour to cobble together from the NAEP’s state-to-state comparisons tool.
The Math is particularly striking between 4th and 8th, as it always is. Florida lost 34 state spots in 2022 NAEP score ranking between 4th and 8th grade. But both Reading and Math go backwards by an identical 8 points relative to the national average from 4th to 8th. In NAEP terms, that’s a big number.
How did the collapse play out in 12th grade?
We can’t know with certainty. The NAEP, in its wisdom, stopped testing 12th graders in 2013. So I extrapolated using 12th grade numbers averaged from the last NAEPs that actually tested 12th graders, 2009 and 2013. More on that in a moment. I have anticipated all of your squawks about that projection, dear educrats; and I have rebuttals.
JebSantis’ numbingly repetitive failure
My main rebuttal is that this identical 4th to 8th collapse pattern existed in 2009 and 2013. It existed in 2003. It existed in 2017 and 2019. It exists in every single NAEP cycle I’ve examined since 2003, when Jeb Bush started mass third grade retention.
I’ve said this often: Florida’s education system remains Jeb’s. He is still the governor of education in Florida, not Ron JebSantis.
And here’s the inexorable, at least 20-plus-year fact of the JebSantis model: relative to the country as a whole, Florida kids do catastrophically worse — on the NAEP and state-based growth tests — every year they take part in Florida’s long broken public education model.
This pattern repeats itself every NAEP cycle. Every. single. one. Going back to 2003, which I think is the first year I can do this kind of comparison. The 2009 and 2013 NAEP 12th grade tests just showed empirically that the Florida collapse continues through high school. Common sense shows it every other year.
I’ve been writing about this dynamic for years. Here’s the key documentation and explainer.
The very serious educrats do not care
The collapse with age on the NAEP (a national aggregate proficiency test) is confirmed by Florida’s own state tests (built to measure growth and proficiency), as documented “The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University.”
It shows Florida has the worst “learning rate” per year of any state in the country — based on our own state tests. See image below. Blue is bad.
Nothing displays the basic moral and educational corruption of the multi-billion dollar pseudo-journalism educrat industrial complex like its willful failure to simply ask in public: what the hell happens in Florida after 4th grade? Or are Florida’s 4th grade NAEP numbers completely full of shit? Or why are Florida’s growth numbers on tests so catastrophically bad?
This willful failure of curiosity drives my rather volcanic contempt for NAEPers and think tankers and testers and reformers and Chalkbeaters and “policy” people afraid to work in a classroom for $50K per year.
If you won’t ask those questions, educrats, you are of no use or value in your job. But enjoy the free conference Chardonnay.
Why does the NAEP pretend that schooling ends in 8th grade?
Back to my 12th grade extrapolation from 2009 and 2013.
The biggest problem with using 2009 and 2013 average data the way I have is that only 11 (2009) and 13 (2013) states ever took the 12th grade NAEP. Florida did badly among them, 9th out of 11 in both Reading and Math in 2009 and 10th/11th out of 13 in 2013. So I calculated what percentage of states outperformed Florida and then multiplied by 50 states — projecting a state ranking if all 50 took it. 40th and 42nd look pretty reasonable to me, as projections, given the scale of deterioration. Maybe the Reading rankings might deteriorate a little less than the Math.
But if mass testing is your jam and paycheck (it is neither for me), answer these questions honestly:
Would you prefer that your own precious child test well in 4th grade or 12th?
Is it deeply stupid and corrupt for a thing that bills itself as the “Nation’s Report Card” to stop “report carding” in 8th grade?
Is there anything in your experience with education data to suggest Florida would suddenly right the collapse dynamic after 8th grade in the years after 2013?
If we line ‘em up and test ‘em today, test junkies and think tankers, will you bet me your job that there’s a significant change for the better in the collapse pattern in 2022?
Anyway, take the 12th grade projection or leave it; but I’m not going to listen to any lectures, at all, from data honks trying to correlate in-person/remote learning to scores with no knowledge at all of which individual kids were remote or in-person.
Based on observation of the past and the regular 2022 collapse between 4th and 8th, my working hypothesis is this: Florida’s arc of NAEP collapse is long; and it always bends toward sucking.
I see nothing, at all, that even hints at disproving it.
I thought COVID might interrupt this arc of suck because it froze Florida’s mass third grade retention for a period of time. I thought 4th grade scores might drop enough to make the collapse to 8th less pronounced. But that didn’t really happen.
And I just don’t have good, specific visibility on the overall mechanics of Florida’s 3rd grade retention during and after COVID — or who specifically took the NAEP last spring and who didn’t.
Why does the 4th to 8th collapse happen? My best guess is retention, vouchers, and fatigue
So fine, let’s just look at what happens between 4th and 8th grade. I have three basic theories:
Mass third grade retention: This prevents lower scoring 3rd grade readers from taking the NAEP in 4th grade. And when that low scoring 3rd grader finally takes the 4th grade NAEP, retention has made it as if he or she is a 5th grader taking the 4th grade NAEP.
Vouchers that help kids escape 3rd grade retention and thus the 4th grade NAEP. This is moving up in my estimation, considering there seems to have been no COVID impact on the collapse pattern. It’s been established that Florida over-testing and 3rd grade retention is a primary sales tool for vouchers. Key excerpt from the Orlando Sentinel’s Pulitzer-worthy “Schools without Rules” report about voucher schools:
Escaping high-stakes testing is such a scholarship selling point that one private school administrator refers to students as "testing refugees."
At the same time, 61 percent of kids abandon the voucher within two years (75 percent within three years), according to the closest thing to a study ever done on Florida vouchers. So you have enormous numbers of “low-scoring” kids ducking 3rd and 4th tests and then coming back grifted into the public system to be counted in the 8th grade NAEP. That’s a recipe for score collapse. In states that provide data, the voucher failure is clear. See this account. I would bet Florida, because of its complete lack of any voucher oversight or standards, has the worst performing voucher program in America. But Florida also doesn’t want you to know that and provides zero data.
Test fatigue and long-term human effects of retention: Florida chases tests like no other state and retains huge numbers of kids. Basically all data shows that ripping kids away from their age cohort over testing/academics leads to significant harm and increased drop out rates over time. If I were redesigning education from scratch, I’d use age, not grade level, as the organizing principle. And just anecdotally, I think test-driven instruction isn’t engaging; kids come to understand how useless these tests are to their lives; and they behave accordingly.
Living on rented time — and they know it
Jeb world — and the wider “choice”/voucher grifter world — knows all about this Florida test collapse dynamic.
The editor of the “ReImagined,” which is the house media organ for Florida voucher giant “Step up for Students,” is a grifter named Matthew Ladner. He vaguely addressed this Florida collapse a few years back — without naming me — shortly after I started talking about it. Essentially, nothing to see here, he said. (I can’t find the link; and I’m not gonna go search.)
After this year’s NAEP, Ladner was noticeably meek and muted. These dudes make their living off bravado; so I pay more attention to their tone than any of the nonsense they actually say.
The article itself is — almost — humble, considering Florida could plausibly claim super duper 4th grade performance before collapsing in 8th.
My suspicion is that Florida’s NAEP collapse with age has become enough of an open secret that even Ladner doesn’t want tempt fate and spur a close look at Florida’s scores. And yes, I will take credit for that because I am the only educrat-adjacent person in America who talks about it regularly.
That’s how successfully Jeb-ism and the wider cross partisan “reform” movement bought off America’s “data-driven” educrats and think tankers for 20 years. They used grants and conferences and feelings of status and nonsense cliches like “learn to read, read to learn,” of which the Florida results make a mockery.
But the political and institutional dynamics of education — in Florida and the country — are a jumbled mess of unpredictable drama right now. Not all of that is bad. “Reform” is dead; and the protection it provided to grifters is dying, too. See Jefferson County.
The rented time of willfully looking away is running out — on both Florida’s testing model and its vouchers. The Step Up for Students grift depends on educrats not looking closely at either. So Ladner does not want to dare them.
But somebody, maybe even the NAEP, may one day find it in their interest to ask: what the hell happens in Florida before and after 4th grade that does so much damage to kids — and NAEP scores?