The 2009 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?

Tom Loveless
Brookings Institution, Brown Center on Education Policy
March 2010

Although it didn't appear until one-third of the way into 2010, the Brown Center's 2009 report is as informative and deserving of attention as its predecessors. Part I offers a very sophisticated look at NAEP scores--two kinds of NAEP scores, actually--and explains why the "main NAEP" shows math performance rising faster than other important indicators. But it also attests to real gains over time, at least in math, and to real narrowing of the gap between low- and high-achieving students. (The latter discussion updates a study that Loveless recently completed for Fordham.) Part II is, frankly, depressing but also revealing. Using California school-achievement data over a number of years, it reveals, in effect, that bad schools stay that way. They don't turn around. (A forthcoming Fordham study will show something very similar in multiple states.) Part III explores a variety of differences between "conversion" charter schools and start-up schools (again using California data) and tentatively suggests that--sorry, Secretary Duncan--converting a low-performing district school into a charter is no sure-fire way of producing better results. Very different issues but very much worth your while. Find it here.

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