(AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix, File)

Newly released 2015 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, for high school seniors paints a dismal picture of student progress, assuming you put stock in test scores as a true measure of achievement. Seniors made no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has dropped since 2013 — and there has been stagnation in the results for many years. As my colleague Emma Brown wrote here, scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.

NAEP is sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card because it is seen as the most consistent measure of U.S. student achievement since the 1990s. It is administered every two years to groups of U.S. students in the fourth and eighth grades, and less frequently to high school students

What does this all mean? Here’s a post explaining it by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

By Monty Neill

Today’s twelfth graders have spent nearly their entire education under No Child Left Behind’s test-nearly-every-kid-every-year requirements.  Most states and districts piled on their own exam mandates to the point that a recent survey found that a typical urban student was administered 112 standardized tests in her public school career.

Yet, the newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for twelfth graders found that reading results, a measure that has remained consistent over the years, were the same in 2015 as they were in 2002. NAEP math scores are flat compared with 2005, the earliest reported date for that exam.  That means that a decade of test-driven school “reform” resulted in no academic progress.

Other results include:

– Students scoring in the lowest 10th and 25th percentiles on NAEP saw a decline in overall since 2009, while high scorers posted small gains, widening those achievement gaps.

– Scores for Blacks and Hispanics have been flat in reading since 2002 and in math since 2009.

– Scores on both subjects are level or down for English language learners and students with disabilities as well.

Some might say that, having been inundated with tests for years, twelfth graders just do not care about how they score on NAEP. But they do care about their performance on SAT and ACT college admissions exams. Scores on those tests also declined or are stagnant overall and for Blacks and Latinos. Racial gaps on the SAT and ACT remain unchanged where they have not widened.

Moreover, NAEP results at grades 4 and 8 show that during NCLB’s test-and-punish era, scores overall and for blacks, Hispanics, English language learners and students with disabilities have faltered at most grades in both subjects.

In light of this dismal situation, will policymakers take advantage of provisions in the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to overhaul their state accountability systems?

The new law says states can end all test-related punishments of schools and teachers – if they choose. The overwhelming evidence shows they should end these sanctions. Instead, they should use multiple measures of student learning, diversify accountability metrics, and provide assistance to schools and districts where needed. A few states are already moving in that direction.

States can also overhaul their testing systems through the “innovative assessment” provisions of the new K-12 education law. They can cut way back on state exams and implement locally-based, teacher-controlled systems of performance tasks and portfolios. A few states are moving in that direction; the rest need to.

Parents and educators who have built the national testing resistance and reform movement know well that test-driven schooling is junk food education. Ensuring the nation moves away from failed test-and-punish policies will require the already impressive movement to grow even stronger.

– Grade 12 NAEP results can be found at http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2015/#.

– For more details on how NAEP, SAT and ACT indicate the failure of NCLB and related policies, see http://www.fairtest.org/independent-test-results-show-nclb-fails.