Was just reading this optimistic report in Forbes, authored by a math ed professor, who says the scores on the NAEP exam tell us that things are getting better in math.
“…[T]he fact that we have increased Main NAEP scores without losing ground on the more traditional Long Term Trend measure of math proficiency is impressive. In general, the increase in Main NAEP scores suggest that students have a deeper understanding of mathematics andmore flexible problem solving skills than they did a few decades ago. That said, there is still room for improvement, as well as for greater equity in the distribution of high-quality mathematics instruction in the U.S.”
The last sentence is key I think. There still is no way to measure to what degree the higher scores on NAEP correlate with outside help (parents, tutors, learning centers) as opposed to those who only receive math instruction in school.
I have difficulty with articles such as these when I see students in first year algebra classes in high school, counting on their fingers to add/subtract. And this includes 10th, 11th and 12th graders who are repeating the course. But then again, maybe things are getting better as this eternal optimist suggests. And of course, there is the unstated (and unproven) assumption that in the era of traditional math, things were much worse.