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Vol. 45, No. 98
Nov. 1, 2011

State Loses Ground in Nation’s Report Card

4th grade reading, 8th grade math down from 2009 highs

Missouri’s academic march to the top 10 just got a little steeper – most notably in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math, according to a report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics.

After being one of 15 states that made significant gains in the 2009 eighth-grade math report, Missouri did not see the same level of achievement in the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In fourth grade reading this year, the state's lowest scoring students showed a significant decline since 2009.

However, Missouri's average scale scores in eighth-grade reading continue to be significantly higher than the national average for public schools. Fourth-grade reading scores and fourth- and eighth-grade math scores continue to be on par with the national average.

Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” the NAEP mathematics and reading assessments are conducted every two years and provide important benchmarks for states and the nation to measure progress.

The nation – represented by 422,000 fourth-graders and 343,000 eighth-graders – posted the highest scores to date in both subjects and both grades this year. Overall, the state and nation have shown significant academic progress in NAEP results reported over the past two decades.

Nonetheless, to sit still is to fall behind while other states progress, say state education officials.

“The NAEP report confirms to me our state’s urgent need to raise the bar academically and to focus on results,” said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. “Too many students are not learning and progressing as they should in the most basic subjects.”

In eighth-grade mathematics, only the highest-performing students (top 10 percent) in Missouri maintained similar scores from 2009 to 2011. All other achievement levels had significant drops in average scale scores. The largest declines were among the lowest-performing students (bottom 25 percent), which are below the “Basic” level of achievement.

Among students performing at various achievement levels in fourth-grade reading, the lowest-performing students (those scoring in the lowest 10 percent) showed a significant decrease. All other achievement levels were flat from 2009 to 2011, as were overall state results in eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math.

While disappointed with the set-back this year, the state is committed to student success, Nicastro said. Missouri has set a goal to be among the top 10 academically by the year 2020.

The NAEP assessment of mathematics, reading and science was conducted nationwide during the first quarter of 2011 and included a representative sample of 6,000 Missouri students in grades 4 and 8. The science results will be released in spring 2012.

The average scale score in reading and math is reported on a scale of 0 to 500.

NAEP mathematics results for Missouri eighth-graders show:

    • Missouri’s average scale score for grade 8 mathematics was noted in the NAEP 2009 report as one of 15 states increasing since 2007; and in the NAEP 2011 report as the only state with lower scores in 2011 than in 2009.
    • In 2011, the average score of eighth-grade students in Missouri was 282. This is not significantly different from the average score of 283 for public school students in the nation, but is significantly lower than Missouri’s 2009 score (286). Missouri’s 2007 score was 281.
    • The percentage of students scoring at a “Proficient” level or above (32%) was significantly lower than in 2009 (35%) but higher than in 2007 (30%).
    • Except for the highest performing eighth-grade students, the state’s average scale scores in mathematics for students in all achievement levels showed significant decreases this year.
    • The 2011 average scale score seems to be reflective of the past trend of average scale scores for grade 8 mathematics.
    • A smaller percentage of Missouri students participating in the 2011 mathematics assessment reported taking Algebra I in the eighth grade (29%) compared to the nation as a whole (33%). Among the students reporting that they do take Algebra I during grade 8, average scale scores (304) seem to be higher than those for the nation (297).

Math results for Missouri fourth-graders show:

    • Missouri’s average scale score (240) has not changed significantly from 2009 (241) or 2007 (239), however, was significantly higher than the score in 1992 (222).
    • The percent of students scoring at the “Proficient” level or above in 2011 (41%) remained steady compared to the 2009 score (also 41%) and was greater than that in 1992 (19%).
    • Most fourth grade subgroup scores are similar to the nation’s subgroup scores; however, the white and black students scored significantly lower than the nation by average scale score.
    • No significant changes were seen in subgroup gaps in Missouri from 2009 to 2011.

NAEP reading results for Missouri eighth-graders show:

    • Missouri’s average scale score (267) has not changed significantly from 2009 (also 267). The average score was statistically higher than that of the nation’s public schools (264).
    • The percent of students scoring at the “Proficient” level or above in 2011 (35%) was not statistically different from the score in 2009 (34%); however, was greater than in 1998 (28%).
      Missouri students scored similar to the nation in most subgroups.
    • In 2011, female students in Missouri had an average score that was higher than male students by 11 points.
    • No significant changes were seen in subgroup gaps in Missouri from 2009 to 2011; and no changes in national subgroup gaps were seen from 2009 to 2011, except the white/Hispanic gap narrowed somewhat.

Reading results for Missouri fourth-graders show:

    • Missouri’s 2011 NAEP average scale score (220) was lower than in 2009 (224), but is not significantly different from that of the nation (220).
    • The percent of students scoring at the “Proficient” level or above in 2011 (34%) was not statistically different from that in 2009 (36%) and was not significantly different than the national average (32%).
    • In 2011, female students in Missouri had an average score that was higher than male students by 10 points.
      Black and white students scored lower than their counterparts nationally in 2011, while students in other subgroups scored similar to other fourth-graders in the nation.

"We can't be satisfied with this performance," said Commissioner Nicastro. "Average is not good enough to support the future economic growth of our state and, most importantly, the future of our children."