The latest 12th grade National Assessment results (from 2009), released this morning, show small (but statistically significant) upticks over the past four years in both reading and math, both in “scale scores” and in the percentages of young people deemed “proficient.” In math, there’s been a slow but persistent rise, of which these new results are part. In reading, however, when you look back farther than 2005, you find scores essentially flat or slightly down.

Don’t yawn yet. This report also brings the first-ever state-level results on 12th grade NAEP for the eleven states that opted to participate, and no doubt much will be made of these at a time of keen focus on state-level education reforms. As expected, they’re predictable.

The big news, alas, isn’t news at all, which is that proficiency levels remain dreadfully low in both reading and math (worse in math), that gains have been tiny, that college readiness is nowhere near what it ought to be, that the achievement gap hasn’t narrowed by a micron, and that an awful lot of spending and reforming and earnest hard work has not yet paid off for a country that needs fundamentally different outcomes for K-12 education.

—Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Last updated November 18, 2010