Kevin Carey, in his post for the Education Sector’s The Quick and the Ed blog, stakes out middle ground on the new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results. I think he gets the mixed, underwhelming results just about right.

He notes the importance of the long-term fourth grade math trend—from 50 percent failing to score even Basic in 1990 to only 18 percent at that distressing level in the latest results. Then he says what middle-of-the-roaders like me feel about where we are:

“First, these scores certainly contradict the more apocalyptic language out there, that standards and tests have ruined American public education, driven the best teachers out of the classroom, etc., etc. There’s simply no evidence here to support that. At the same time, it’s abundantly clear that [the No Child Left Behind law] did not create an inflection point of accelerating improvement. That said, we should never take improvement for granted. Helping more students learn isn’t like rolling a ball along a flat surface, where the key is to get momentum going that then mostly sustains itself. It’s a lot more like climbing a mountain, where every increase in elevation is hard-won.”