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For Immediate Release: Oct. 19, 2005
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

NAEP results show South Dakota above national average

Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress were recently released, and South Dakota students consistently achieved scores that were among the top 10 highest scores in the country.

“The NAEP offers a national picture of how our students compare with students across the country,” said Gov. Mike Rounds, “and, once again, South Dakota students outperformed their peers. We were especially pleased to see improvement in our Native American students’ scores.”

Commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” the NAEP tests a random sample of fourth- and eighth-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.

Math scores improve

In the area of math, South Dakota’s scores improved over 2003, the first time the NAEP was given in South Dakota.

With an average scaled score of 242, the state’s fourth-grade students had the fifth highest math score in the nation, sharing that honor with five other states. South Dakota’s score was up from 237 in 2003. The scores of South Dakota’s Native American students – the state’s largest minority group – also improved from 217 in 2003 to 221 in 2005.

With an average scaled score of 287, the state’s eighth-grade students had the third highest math score in the nation, a distinction shared by two other states. The score was up from 285 in 2003. Nationally, the eighth-grade average was 278. The math scores of the state’s Native American eighth-graders rose from 255 in 2003 to 260 in 2005.

Reading scores stayed level

Reading scores for South Dakota students remained steady or decreased slightly, which follows the national trend.

In grade four, South Dakota’s average reading scaled score was 222, the same score attained in 2003. This was the 7th highest score nationally. The national average was 217, up from 216 in 2003. The average score for South Dakota’s Native American students rose four points, from 197 in 2003 to 201 in 2005.

At an average scaled score of 269, South Dakota’s eighth-grade students had the fourth highest reading score in the nation, a place shared with three other states. The national average was 260 in 2005, down from 261 in 2003. South Dakota’s Native American students also followed the trend, with scores dropping one point from 246 in 2003 to 245 in 2005.

Score gaps continue

“When considering these results, it’s also important to look at the gap between the scores of groups of students,” said Dr. Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. “Certainly we’re pleased with the improved scores of our Native American students, but we’ve got to continue to close the gap between their scores and those of the general student population.”

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 is an indicator of poverty. In 2005, the gaps between these two groups in both subjects and both grade levels range from 15 to 20 points.

“The link between poverty and achievement is not a new issue,” Melmer said. “These students need and deserve the attention necessary to bring them up to higher levels of achievement.”

For more information related to NAEP, visit