|Eighth-Grade and Fourth-Grade Math Scores Rise in Area and Nation|
The nation's fourth- and eighth-graders continue to improve steadily in
mathematics, and fourth-grade reading achievement is also on the rise,
according to test scores released this morning. But progress in
narrowing racial and ethnic performance gaps remains slow and in some
cases has stalled.
This year's scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed non-Hispanic white students well ahead of black and Hispanic students in reading and math. In addition, eighth-grade reading scores remained about the same as they were in 1998, confirming the belief of many educators that middle schools need improvement.
Known as " the nation's report card," the assessment administered by the U.S. Education Department samples students in states and the District of Columbia to measure trends. Tests were given this year to more than 702,000 students.
The national assessment is separate from the annual tests used to measure progress of students in states and the District to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Some experts point to the disconnect between results of the two types of tests to argue for national education standards, saying that state standards are too low.
Today's results show that math score gains in 2007 were not as big as in previous years, but scores continued to rise. Nationally, the proportion of fourth-grade students who scored at or above proficient on the math assessment has tripled since 1990: to 39 percent, up from 13 percent. For eighth-graders, the proportion has more than doubled, to 32 percent from 15 percent.
Some experts credit the growing number of eighth-graders who are taking algebra or other challenging math courses as a reason for improving scores.
For Maryland eighth-graders, the average math score rose eight points since 2005, compared with an average national increase of two points. In Virginia, eighth-grade math scores increased four points, and in the District, the eighth-grade math scores rose three points.
Since 2005, Virginia's fourth-grade math scores have risen four points. The corresponding scores rose two points in Maryland and three in the District. The average national gain was two points.
Math scores increased across racial and ethnic groups. The 26-point gap between white and black fourth-graders in math has not budged since 2005, though it's down six points since 1990, and the 21-point gap between white and Hispanic fourth-graders in math increased by one point.
For eighth-graders, there was little change in the disparity between white and Hispanic math scores, and the 32-point gap between white and black students in math remains nearly what it was 17 years ago.
In reading, stagnant middle school scores continue to perplex education experts. The average reading score for eighth-graders has increased one point since 2005, and just three points since 1992. There were notable local exceptions. Maryland and the District were among only six jurisdictions that had increases in eighth-grade reading scores. The District's score increased three points, and Maryland's increased four points. Virginia's dropped a point.
It's possible that the change in local reading scores is related to the percentage of students with disabilities who were excluded from testing, a proportion that rose in the District and in Maryland. In Virginia, the percentage excluded stayed the same.
Fourth-grade reading scores have risen six points in the District since 2005 and five points in Maryland. Virginia's fourth-grade scores rose one point. The national average was up two points, to a 15-year high. But that level still was not much more than the 1992 average score.
The Washington Post