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For Immediate Release: Oct. 14, 2009
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

South Dakota students fare well on Nation’s Report Card

South Dakota’s 8th-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress ranked among some of the highest in the nation in 2009. Math scores of Native American students at 8th grade have increased significantly since 2003, when the test was first administered in South Dakota.

“This is great news,” said Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “Our students typically score above their peers across the nation, but we’re especially pleased with what we’re seeing in 8th grade math with all of our students, and our Native American students in particular.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” measures student achievement levels in various subject areas. NAEP math scores for 2009 were released earlier today; reading and science scores are expected next spring.

The NAEP tests a random sample of 4th and 8th grade public school students. 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. Results are only available at the state level.

At the 8th grade level, South Dakota students had an average math scale score of 291, compared to a national average of 282. Only four states scored higher than South Dakota. Eight scored about the same, and 39 had lower scores than South Dakota.

At the 4th grade level, South Dakota’s average math scale score was 242, compared to a national average of 239. Ten states scored higher than South Dakota. Seventeen scored about the same, and 24 had lower scores than South Dakota.

“What’s behind our success with 8th grade math? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that many of our districts are offering rigorous math courses, including Algebra I or Algebra I content, at the junior high level,” Oster said. “Our students are being exposed to these concepts early on, and they seem to be grasping them.”

From the first NAEP test in 2003 to the most recent assessment in 2009, 8th grade Native American scores in South Dakota have increased from 255 to 266, an impressive 11 points. At the 4th grade level, the average scale score has moved from 217 to 220.

Oster credits the growth to a couple of things. “No Child Left Behind has shone a spotlight on the achievement gaps we have between certain student groups,” he said. “South Dakota educators have risen to the challenge of closing those gaps. These scores are a testament to the teachers, administrators and students who have done the hard work to ensure student learning.”

Oster also believes South Dakota’s GEAR UP program may be having an impact. The federally funded program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who graduate high school and are prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. The program begins working with middle school children and continues through high school. In South Dakota, the majority of participants are Native American.

“We’ve still got a long way to go to address this achievement gap, but overall we are pleased with the results of all of our students,” he said.

Grade 4 – Math
Average scale score
2003 2005 2007 2009

South Dakota – 237

South Dakota – 242

South Dakota – 241

South Dakota – 242

National – 234

National – 237 National – 239 National – 239


Grade 8 – Math
Average scale scor
2003 2005 2007 2009

South Dakota – 285

South Dakota – 287

South Dakota – 288

South Dakota – 291

National – 276

National – 278 National – 280 National – 282

For more information related to NAEP, visit