From Mother Jones:

 STANDARDIZED TESTS may not tell us everything there is to know about a school like Mission High, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their uses. And one of those uses is myth busting—in particular, the myth that America’s schools are in a state of terminal decline and students aren’t learning as much as those of a generation ago.

The real story is more complicated, and the best place to see it is the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card, the “gold standard,” or just plain NAEP. It provides a long-term set of results going back to the early 1970s, and unlike state tests, which vary substantially and are sometimes dumbed down to produce higher scores, the NAEP is widely trusted in the educational community. It can’t tell us anything about particular students or schools (since only a fraction of the nation’s schools participate), but it can give us a pretty good idea of how national averages have changed over time. So let’s take a look at the trend lines.

Myth No. 1: Kids today don’t know as much as they used to.

The chart below shows overall reading and math scores for 9-year-olds starting in the early ’70s. Since then, reading scores have gone up 12 points and math scores have gone up 24 points. Ten points on the NAEP roughly equals one grade level, which means that today’s 9-year-olds are performing more than a full grade level better in reading and two grade levels better in math compared to the ’70s.

Myth No. 2: But we haven’t made much progress with black and Latino kids.

In fact, scores for blacks and Latinos are up more than scores for whites. In reading, as the chart above shows, white kids’ scores are up 14 points, while Latinos’ have risen 24 points and blacks’ 34 points. In math, scores for white kids are up 25 points, while Latinos’ have jumped 32 points and blacks’ 34 points. There’s still a significant gap between whites and other groups, but we’ve been making steady—and largely unheralded—progress for the past 40 years.

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