NAEP scores exceed national average, other states gain ground at grade 4
Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” were released today. For the third year, South Dakota students achieved scores that exceeded the national average.
“When studying student achievement, we look at three primary assessment tools: the NAEP, the ACT and the Dakota STEP,” said Education Secretary Rick Melmer. “The NAEP and ACT offer important national perspectives, while the Dakota STEP measures progress against our state content standards. This year, we’re particularly pleased with our 8th grade NAEP results since that represents a critical transition year for young people.”
The NAEP tests a random sample of 4th and 8th grade students in reading and mathematics. The test is given every two years in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools. The NAEP scale ranges from 0 to 500.
Eighth grade scores among top 5 highest in country
At the 8th grade level, South Dakota’s average scale score in math was 288, compared to the national average of 280. This was up just slightly from 287 in 2005. Only four jurisdictions scored significantly higher than South Dakota in 8th grade math. Twelve jurisdictions scored about the same, and 35 had lower scores than South Dakota.
In reading, the state’s 8th grade students achieved an average scale score of 270, compared to the national average of 261. This was up slightly from 269 in 2005. Only three jurisdictions scored significantly higher than South Dakota in 8th grade reading. Eleven scored about the same, and 37 had lower scores than South Dakota.
“Our standards at this level appear to be fairly tight and more aligned with the NAEP assessment framework,” Melmer said. “Compared to their peers in other states, South Dakota’s 8th grade students seem to be in a strong position heading into high school, which can be a challenging transition.”
Fourth grade scores stable, other states improve
At the 4th grade level, South Dakota’s average scale score in math was 241, compared to the national average of 239. That was down just slightly from 242 in 2005. Thirteen jurisdictions scored significantly higher than South Dakota in 4th grade math. Sixteen jurisdictions scored approximately the same, and 22 scored below South Dakota.
In reading, the state’s 4th grade students achieved an average scale score of 223, compared to the national average of 220. This was up slightly from 222 in 2005. Eight jurisdictions scored significantly higher than South Dakota in 4th grade reading. Twenty-two scored approximately the same, and 21 scored below South Dakota.
Across the nation, scores at the 4th grade level saw significant improvement, while South Dakota’s scores remained steady. “Other states appear to be gaining ground at this level. While I’m not ready to sound any alarm bells, I do think it’s an indication that we need to pay close attention to our early learning efforts,” Melmer said. “Programs like the new Starting Strong preschool pilot in Sioux Falls can help us make sure that all students are properly prepared as they enter kindergarten.”
According to Melmer, elementary math is currently a focus of the Department of Education through South Dakota Counts, a three-year, $3 million federally funded initiative. South Dakota Counts targets math instruction at the K-5 level. “The program aims to help teachers understand how students learn math and, therefore, make them better teachers,” he said.
Poverty remains a factor
One subgroup that education leaders watch closely is the American Indian subgroup. “Our Native American students make up about 11 percent of our public school student population, making them our largest minority group,” Melmer said. This year, the NAEP scores of South Dakota’s American Indian students remained below the national average for this subgroup in all areas except 8th grade reading.
Another “gap” area that deserves attention is the difference between the scores of students eligible for the free lunch program and those not eligible for the program. Participation in the free and reduced lunch program serves as an indicator of poverty. In 2007, the gaps between these two groups in both subjects and both grade levels ranged from 15 to 22 points.
“The link between poverty and student achievement has been well documented,” Melmer said. “We need to continue to focus on strategies for assisting these students and bringing them to higher levels of achievement.”