Systems Led by Members of Chiefs for Change Post Significant Gains on Nation’s Report Card

Education systems led by members of Chiefs for Change posted the highest gains on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The results released today by the National Center for Education Statistics show the only states with increases in 8th-grade math, 8th-grade reading, or 4th-grade reading since 2017 are those with a state education chief who is a member of the Chiefs for Change network. In 4th-grade math, the only other subject for which the test was administered, four of the eight states with increases have education leaders who are a part of Chiefs for Change.

Mississippi, under the direction of State Superintendent Carey Wright, a member of the Chiefs for Change Board of Directors, had the most significant increases. It was the only state with an increase in 4th-grade reading, posted the largest gains of any state in 4th-grade math, and was one of only three states with an increase in 8th-grade math.

“For many years, the education system in Mississippi was considered the worst in the nation—but we are proud to say that is no longer the case,” Wright explained. “Our children are just as capable as any other students. These results are the latest indication that the changes we have put in place are making a difference—and that the hard work our students, teachers, principals, staff, and families do every day is paying off.”

“Mississippi’s strong emphasis on early literacy is an example for the nation,” Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee said. “The NAEP results demonstrate that leadership matters. Systems with bold leaders that have adopted rigorous standards, accountability systems aligned to those standards, supports for teachers, and a culture of high expectations for all children are making important gains. Lasting improvements take time, but we must keep moving forward with approaches producing positive change.”

Another bright spot is the District of Columbia (DC), which remains the fastest-improving state in the nation over time. Along with Mississippi, it is one of only two states to make gains this year on three out of four NAEP subject/grade assessments. Under the leadership of State Superintendent Hanseul Kang, a member of Chiefs for Change, scores increased by three points apiece in 4th-grade math, 8th-grade math, and 8th-grade reading. In 8th-grade reading, DC was the only state to post an increase. In contrast, the nation as a whole saw a drop of three points in 8th-grade reading, with 31 states recording a decrease since 2017.

“I am extremely proud of our students and educators, and the remarkable gains they have made in teaching and learning. As much of the nation either stayed flat or slipped behind, DC students continue to make steady progress,” Kang said. “These results are proof that when you set high expectations and stay the course, students will rise to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Louisiana, under Chiefs for Change member and State Superintendent John White, led the nation in 8th-grade math gains, up five points from 2017. Scores for students in Nevada, where Chiefs for Change member Steve Canavero served as state superintendent of public instruction until February of this year, were up four points in 4th-grade math. Scores for students in the same grade and subject were up three points in Tennessee. Candice McQueen served as that state’s education commissioner until January; she and the current commissioner, Penny Schwinn, are both members of Chiefs for Change.

At the district level, 27 school systems participated in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), and several districts led by members of Chiefs for Change had increases:

  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District, under the leadership of CEO Eric Gordon, was up three points in 4th-grade math.
  • Denver Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Susana Cordova, was up six points in 4th-grade math and four points in 8th-grade math.
  • District of Columbia Public Schools, where Chancellor Lewis Ferebee joined the district in January of this year, was up seven points in 8th-grade math, five points in 8th-grade reading, and four points in 4th-grade math.
  • Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, under the leadership of Superintendent Sharon Contreras, was up four points in 8th-grade math.

NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do, making it a useful tool for tracking student achievement in math and reading over time. Scores released today are for tests administered to approximately 600,000 students between January and March of this year in all 50 states, DC, and the Department of Defense school system. Nationally, scores declined one point since 2017 in 4th-grade reading, one point in 8th-grade math, and three points in 8th-grade reading. Scores went up one point since 2017 in 4th-grade math. The trend line over the past three decades remains positive. The latest scores, however, reveal a decline for the lowest-performing students, while higher-performing students showed increases.

“This is a disturbing pattern, one that is consistent with our nation’s growing economic inequality and history of structural discrimination in education, housing, and access to opportunity,” Magee said. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to ensure that all students have access to excellent schools. We are proud that members of Chiefs for Change are leading the way in this critical work.”

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.