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Latest Media Releases



For Immediate Release: March 24, 2010
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

NAEP reading scores released, South Dakota ahead of national average



South Dakota’s 8th grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress rank among some of the highest in the nation. Only three states or jurisdictions – Massachusetts, Vermont and the Department of Defense – had better scores.

While South Dakota’s 4th grade reading scores also are higher than their peers across the nation, the gap appears to be closing.

“South Dakota continues to fare well nationally,” said Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “Our students have scored above the national average since the state began participating in the NAEP. We’ve got a solid track record, and we’re especially pleased with those 8th grade scores.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, measures student achievement levels in various subject areas. Reading scores for testing done in 2009 were released earlier today.

At the 8th grade level, South Dakota’s average scale score in 2009 was 270, compared to the national average of 262. Only three states or jurisdictions scored higher. Nine scored about the same, and 39 had lower scores than South Dakota. “It appears that the focus our schools have put on reading across all content areas is paying off for our middle school students,” Oster said.

At the 4th grade level, South Dakota’s average scale score was 222, compared to the national average of 220. Fourteen states or jurisdictions scored higher. Sixteen scored about the same, and 21 had lower scores than South Dakota.

The difference between the state’s average score at 4th grade and the nation’s average 4th grade score has been decreasing since 2003. “It’s not that we aren’t doing well; it’s that other states are making greater strides in terms of improvement,” Oster said.

According to Oster, one of the reasons this may be happening has to do with the alignment between South Dakota’s reading standards and the NAEP. “Teachers and students are still getting used to our new, more rigorous reading standards. It takes a while for those concepts to trickle down,” he said.

The state Department of Education plans to offer professional development sessions for teachers that will focus on instructional and assessment strategies to improve student achievement in reading.

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.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: See chart below for four-year NAEP trend.

Grade 4 – Reading
Average scale score
2003 2005 2007 2009
South Dakota – 222 South Dakota – 222 South Dakota – 223 South Dakota – 222
National – 216 National – 217 National – 220 National – 220


Grade 8 - Reading
Average scale score
2003 2005 2007 2009
South Dakota – 270 South Dakota – 269 South Dakota – 270 South Dakota – 270
National – 261 National – 260 National – 261 National – 262


For more information related to NAEP, visit

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/