Nation's Report Card

NAEP: National Math Scores Slightly Up at Grade 8, Flat at Grade 4

Duncan calls for additional measures to narrow achievement gap, improve academic performance all around

Extra Credit
2007-2009 Movers at the 4th-Grade Level, by State

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 21 states and the District of Columbia saw increases at the fourth-grade level, eight of these statistically significant. There were also several decreases at the fourth-grade level.

The positive movers at the fourth-grade level were Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah (+1); California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire*, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Vermont* (+2); Colorado*, Nevada*, and Rhode Island* (+3); Kentucky* and Maryland* (+4); and the District of Columbia* (+5).

Meanwhile, 18 states actually saw declines between 2007 and 2009, four of these statistically significant. They included: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington (-1); Arizona, Indiana*, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wyoming* (-2); and Delaware*, Kansas, and West Virginia* (-3).

* Indicates statistically significant increases or decreases.

Fourth-graders' math skills have seen no improvement over the last two years, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released this week. Scores for eighth-graders did improve slightly but not significantly. As a result, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that more needs to be done both to close the achievement gap and improve the overall performance of America's students.

The report, also known as "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2009," studied 168,000 fourth-graders and 161,000 eighth-graders who took part in the assessment, which covered a range of mathematics topics, from algebra and geometry to number properties and operations, measurement, and data analysis, probability, and statistics.

Fourth-Grade Achievement Flat
This year's report showed that for the first time since 1996, fourth-graders made absolutely no progress in math achievement compared with the previous report period (2007). For both years, average scores were 240. (There had been a slowing trend in achievement gains leading up to 2009's results. The gain from 2000 to 2003 was nine points; the gain from 2003 to 2005 was three points; and the gain from 2005 to 2007 was just two points on the fourth-graders' average scores in mathematics.

The results were identical for fourth-graders when grouped by performance level. There was no change from 2007 to 2009 for students who performed at or above proficient level or at or above basic level.

"Today's results are evidence that we must better equip our schools to improve the knowledge and skills of America's students in mathematics" said Secretary Duncan in a statement released to coincide with the report Wednesday. "Our students have made real gains in math over the past two decades, but for the first time since NAEP's mathematics test started in 1990, student achievement in fourth grade has not improved. More must be done to narrow the troubling achievement gap that has persisted in mathematics, and to ensure that America's students make greater gains toward becoming competitive with their peers in other countries."

Eighth-Grade Scores Increase Slightly
Meanwhile, in the eighth grade, test results continued the slow upward trend that began between 1996 and 2000, when scores increased from 270 to 273. Between 2000 and 2003, they increased another five points; between 2003 and 205, they rose just one point; between 2005 and 2007, they increase another two points; and between 2007 and 2009, the rose two points again, topping out at an average score of 283.

The results were similar among the two different performance groups. Those achieving at or above basic level saw their scores increase slightly, as did those performing at or above proficient level.

Duncan said that the overall results call for reform in the way math is taught in K-12 schools. "None of us should be satisfied. We need reforms that will accelerate student achievement. Our students need to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace. These NAEP results are a call to action to reform the teaching and learning of mathematics and other related subjects in order to prepare our students to compete in the global economy."

He continued: "President Obama's agenda for school reform is focused on improving student achievement. We're building a teaching profession that will ensure every child has an excellent teacher and that teachers are rewarded for excellent work. We're supporting efforts to create standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and careers. We're helping states build data systems to track whether students are meeting those standards. And we're turning around our lowest-performing schools."

Achievement Gap Still Obvious
Breaking down the results into individual ethnic groups, two trends have emerged: The achievement gap between white students and students in other groups has narrowed since 1990, but that gap is still dramatic and was mostly unchanged since 2007.

Among fourth-graders, the gap between the average scores of white students (248) and black students (222) was 26 points in 2009--identical to the gap seen in 2007. The same is true of Hispanic students' scores (227), with a 21-point gap in both 2009 and 2007. The scores of fourth-grade Asians/Pacific Islanders accelerated a bit further beyond the scores of white students, from 253 in 2007 to 255 in 2009. The scores of fourth-grade American Indians and Alaska natives decreased three points from 228 in 2007 to 225 in 2009.

Meanwhile, among eighth-graders, the story was a little different, with all five groups improving slightly over 2007, but with the achievement gap also widening a bit for some.

Eighth-grade Asians and Pacific Islanders say the biggest gains in 2009, up four points from 2007 to 301. White students saw a two-point gain in 2009, up to 293, as did American Indian and Alaska native students, to 266. Black and Hispanic eighth-grade students each improved one point on average. Black students went from 260 in 2007 to 261 in 2009; Hispanic students increased from 265 in 2007 to 266 in 2009. So between white students and black students in eighth grade, the gap increased one point to 32 points, and between white and Hispanic students, the gap grew one point to 27. The achievement gap between Asian/Pacific Islanders and all other groups increased. The gap between Asians and white students grew two points to 8. The gap between Asians and hispanics grew to 35 points, as did the gap between Asians and American Indians/Alaska natives. The gap between Asians and blacks grew to 40 points.

At both grade levels, the gap between males and females remained flat at two points, with males scoring slightly higher in both cases (241 versus 239 in fourth grade and 284 versus 282 in eighth grade).

"People across the country need to work together to make these reforms happen," Duncan said. "That includes elected officials, community leaders, educators, parents, and students themselves. We all need to build a better future for our children and our country."

Further information about the 2009 math results can be found at NAEP's site here. A complete copy of the full report can be downloaded in PDF form here.

Extra Credit
2007-2009 Movers at the 8th-Grade Level, by State

At the eighth-grade level, 36 states and the District of Columbia saw increases in student scores (15 of these statistically significant increases), wile none saw statistically significant decreases, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The positive movers at the eighth-grade level were Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas (+1); Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont*, and Wisconsin (+2); Alabama, Georgia*, Idaho*, Nevada*, New York, Rhode Island*, South Dakota*, and Utah* (+3); New Hampshire*, New Jersey* and Washington* (+4); Hawaii*, Missouri*, and Montana* (+5); District of Columbia* (+6); and Connecticut* (+7).

Only four states saw declines in eighth-grade NAEP scores between 2007 and 2009, but none of the declines were statistically significant. They included: Kansas and Wyoming (-1); and South Carolina and Virginia (-2).

* Indicates statistically significant increases or decreases.