2016 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?

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Author(s): The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings

  • Tom Loveless

Published: Mar. 24, 2016

Report Intro/Brief:
"The 2016 edition of the Brown Center Report (BCR) is number five in the third volume and the 15th issue overall. The series began in 2000, making this the fifth consecutive presidential election year in which an issue has been published. As is customary, this year’s BCR contains three studies.

Part one is on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and instruction in math and reading. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data indicate that nonfiction is receiving greater emphasis in both fourth and eighth grade reading instruction, data and geometry are receding in importance in fourth grade math, and course enrollments in eighth grade math are shifting away from advanced courses toward a single, general math course. The CCSS supports all of these trends.

The second section investigates whether tracking in eighth grade is related to Advanced Placement (AP) outcomes in high school. Tracking, the practice of grouping students into different classes based on ability or prior achievement, is a controversial topic. Critics argue that tracking creates or reinforces social inequities. Middle school is when students first experience tracking, typically in mathematics. In eighth grade, the tracking question currently boils down to whether high achieving students who are ready for a formal algebra course will get one—or whether all students will take the same general math course.

Part three examines school leadership from an international perspective. All around the world, school principals are called on to provide instructional leadership. Data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) are examined to see whether principals’ instructional activities are associated with student achievement. No association was found."