That National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests large, representative samples of students across the nation every couple of years. This morning the NAEP 4th and 8th grade reading and math results came out. New York State 4th graders showed no significnt progress in reading since 2003, while in math they did gain a smidgen. This is a lot different than what the state tests have said. The state tests showed large improvements in fourth grade English and math. The NAEP results for New York State 8th grade show declines in both reading and math while the state tests show increases in both. A number of people, NYU education scholar Diane Ravitch and NY Times columnist Michael Winerip among them, have suspected the state tests were just easier–not that student learning was racking up outsized gains. This new information supports those views, and it also reminds us of what we (should) already know: when looking at hundreds of thousands of records, huge leaps in the average are suspect. In the past, New York State tests were highly regarded, but in the last couple of years whiffs of politics have begun to slip in through the cracks. Hopefully, the NAEP results will provide a reality check on the numbers.