J.C. Bowman Interprets National Assessment of Education Progress as ‘Flat Line’ Since 1970

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Professional Educators of Tennessee’s head, J.C. Bowman in studio to review the recent NAEP scores revealing little progress since 1970 inception.

Leahy: J.C. Bowman, head of Professional Educators of Tennessee, is in the studio with us. You’re the alternative to the teacher unions, correct?

Bowman: Oh, absolutely, yeah. And people tend to call us conservative. We’re in the middle of the road of conservative. We do have most of the people – I like to say our teachers are there because they have a real mission. They see their vision, and their faith – a lot of our teachers are faith-based, and we do that.

They just don’t like people telling them how to vote, and they don’t like the social agenda that the unions have. Those are pretty much two of the reasons that drive a lot of people out. But now they’re coming to us because we have so many benefits and other things.

Leahy: Proedtn.org. The Nation’s Report Card came out early Monday morning. It’s put out by a group that’s been doing this for, I don’t know, about 30, 40, 50 years.

Bowman: Since 1970.

Leahy: Since 1970, okay. The result – it’s called the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. And it measures the performance of kids in fourth grade and eighth grade in every state and in key metropolitan areas against a standard. And since 1970 – let me ask you this. How has the country been doing since 1970, and how has it done between 2019 and 2022?

Bowman: Well, we have flat-lined. That’s the number that I really found staggering. It’s a straight line almost across.

Leahy: If the standard number for eighth-grade performance and fourth-grade performance – back in 1970, the number was, if you look at reading …

Bowman: Two-fifty-five.

Leahy: Two-fifty-five. This is just a standard, shall we say. It went up in 2012, between 1972 and 2012 it went up to 263.

Bowman: Correct.

Leahy: This is for eighth-grade reading, and then it went down. Now it’s what, in 2022? Went down to what?

Bowman: Yes. It dropped a little bit lower. It’s about 257.

Leahy: It’s down and particularly down since 2019, in part due to the pandemic. But what troubles me, J.C., is this. Academic performance among fourth-grade students in K-12 public schools has declined dramatically.

It has not improved, really, since 1970. We’re talking about 52 years. A long time. In that period of time, the amount of money spent on education has skyrocketed. We’re not getting exactly the bang for the buck here, are we?

Bowman: It’s not reaching the classroom. You’ve got these peripherals out of there. We keep adding more and more to the bureaucracy. We’re adding more and more to all sorts of other things. And keep in mind, NAEP is randomized.

Leahy: NAEP, of course, means National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Bowman: It’s a randomized test. There are no individual data. So you may take it in fourth grade, but you may not be the person taking it in eighth grade. So it’s all over the place. You can’t follow this kid from fourth grade to eighth grade to 12th grade and follow and see how this kid has progressed.

That’s the other part of it. And I tell people and we had an article yesterday in The Tennessee Star. We talked about one of the things, it’s just a snapshot. When everybody was bragging about how Tennessee was the fastest improving on NAEP scores. That was Governor Haslam’s big one.

Leahy: He was promoting that back in 2010, 2012.

Bowman: Well, yeah, we really hit it, I think around 2014.

Leahy: And so the big thing was fastest-improving. But now you look at 2022; our decline in Tennessee, according to this Nation’s Report Card, is worse than the decline in the rest of the country.

Bowman: And if you’re going to make NAEP the gold standard that you’re going to use, the Nation’s Report Card, and if you’re going to compare Governor Lee to Governor Haslam, we’ve tanked.

Leahy: What has Governor Lee done wrong in this regard?

Bowman: Well, I think he brought an inexperienced commissioner of education in.

Leahy: Penny Schwinn. But wait. Let’s be fair to her. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. (Laughs) That’s not a plus in my mind.

Bowman: By the way, she is an assessment guru. Honestly, I think her PhD areas are in the arena of accountability and assessment. So she should be …

Leahy: If she’s accountable, then she should be accountable for the precipitous drop in the past three years in the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in Tennessee.

Bowman: Reading between the lines as you read this, number one, I agree with her. We should look at our own test scores and see how they’ve done and compare those. I agree with her on that.

Second thing is, though, that they’re really rolling out right now, is they’re hitting that equity issue. And they’re coming in and say, well, the white kids did okay, but it’s the minority children, the black and brown children that didn’t do as well.

Leahy: Is that what the data shows?

Bowman: Yes. In some aspects, yes. Because again, we’re looking at numbers that are randomized. So if you want test scores to go up, you put it in more fluent and more different areas. If you want them to go down, you give these randomized tests in areas that are not performing as highly.

And that’s why I’ve always said NAEP is just, I don’t get too excited about it either way. It’s just a flat line. And guess what? These guys get millions and millions and millions of dollars in free media coverage and everything else. But you’re looking at the numbers. You looked at them with me. I mean, we’re a flat line. What have we done?

Leahy: Not improving, getting a little bit worse, or at least in the past few years?

Bowman: And I go back to the beginning. But we’re still outscoring what we were in 1970. (Leahy chuckles) So our kids are smarter than in 1970.

Leahy: Yes, but not by much. Barely. Way back when.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.













Related posts

One Thought to “J.C. Bowman Interprets National Assessment of Education Progress as ‘Flat Line’ Since 1970”

  1. mikey whipwreck

    of course its flat. the federal government got involved.

    when has that ever improved – anything?