The Mystery of the Math Swoon

FL Charter 2015 NAEP 8m

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So nationally 8th grade math scores declined by three points. That’s not good but on a 500 scale point test it isn’t clear that it is anything to get too excited about, although it interrupted a long-term positive trend. Florida’s 8th grade math scores however declined by six points. That’s more worrisome.

So digging around in the data reveals that Florida charter schools were unaffected by the swoon- their 8th grade math scores were flat between 2013 and 2015- and delightfully high to boot (see chart).

The Trial Urban District Assessment has information for Miami-Dade and Hillsborough County (Tampa area). Here’s where the mystery deepens- Miami was also unaffected with flat scores between 2013 and 2015. Hillsborough however:

8 point drop in the Tampa area according to TUDA. If there is any rhyme or reason to this I can’t discern it. Some of the national meta-explanations I have seen bandied about don’t seem to work to explain trends in Florida. For instance some have pointed the finger at Obama’s state waivers. There may or may not be something to that nationally, but Florida schools all operated under the same waiver. Standards/testing transition issues likewise impacted all schools-is there some reason why Miami and charter schools should brush this off while the state as a whole did not? Something peculiar may have happened in Hillsborough but Tampa is not big enough to do a huge amount of damage to Florida’s statewide average.

I’m stumped, but always happy to employ the wisdom of the crowd. If you have bright ideas or wild speculation to offer, that’s what the Jayblog comment section was made for!


6 Responses to The Mystery of the Math Swoon

  1. Lets look at NAEP Math content. CCSS narrowed topics covered getting rid of probability and stats in the early grades (an excellent move) that could explain a 4th grade NAEP drop. Was there a similar exclusion of a topic in CCSS that might effect grade 8 NAEP math results? I do not know.

    How did districts approach CCSS alignment? Seattle is currently implementing a jumbled incoherent topic mess and destroying any stability the “adopted” text might provide.

    Such efforts to “better align” with CCSS in an attempt to raise SBAC test scores may negatively effect student learning. Less learning may produce lower NAEP scores.

  2. matthewladner says:

    I’m curious how Miami and charter schools navigated this so much more successfully than Hillsborough and the state at large.

    • Looking at what is happening in Seattle. Did Hillsborough have math leadership that produced math chaos? Perhaps Miami and the Charters considered how children effectively learn mathematics.

      To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. …. Is Hillsborough’s performance relevant? If so will Hillsborough intelligently apply it?

  3. Dr. Ladner, I think we need to look at the general excellence of Miami-Dade, which has made steady progress over the past 6 years – and done especially well with low-income kids. (

    So while Hillsborough followed the rest of the state downward, it’s not too surprising Miami-Dade would buck the trend.

    Why the fourth-largest school district getting this kind of success with a student population that’s two-thirds Hispanic is not getting more ink from national pundits, I don’t know.

    What’s happening with eighth-graders in charter schools, though… that’s an interesting question.

  4. […] Mysteriously, Hillsborough County, Fla., which New York’s education chief used to lead, drove Florida’s outsized losses. (Jay Greene) […]

  5. edthinktank says:

    Mystery solved… Gates Foundation extensive meddling

    In far too many school districts the thirst for innovative engaging learning leads to chaos.

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