TOPEKA — Kansas students posted gains in math and reading scores on 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress tests, especially when compared with scores from 2003, education officials announced Tuesday.
State Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker gains were particularly strong in math and among English language learners. She said the state’s performance on the national exam indicates Kansas schools are improving in their ability to provide a breadth of knowledge to students and not just teaching to state standards.
Nation's report card shows slight math improvement
WASHINGTON (AP) — Some progress. Still needs improvement.
The nation’s report card on math and reading shows fourth- and eighth-graders scoring their best ever in math and eighth-graders making some progress in reading. But the results released Tuesday are a stark reminder of just how far the nation’s school kids are from achieving the No Child Left Behind law’s goal that every child in America be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Just a little more than one-third of the students were proficient or higher in reading. In math, 40 percent of the fourth-graders and 35 percent of the eighth-graders had reached that level.
The figures were from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It’s clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation’s children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.”
There were few noticeable changes in the achievement gap between white and black students from 2009. While the gap is smaller than in the early 1990s, the new test results reflect a 25-point difference between white and black fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and fourth-graders in math.
However, Hispanic students in eighth grade made some small strides to narrow the gap with white students in both math and reading. In reading, the gap was 22 points in 2011 compared to 26 in 1992 and 24 in 2009.
The reading test asked students to read passages and recall details or interpret them. In math, students were asked to answer questions about topics such as geometry, algebra and number properties and measurement.
“I believe the State Board of Education’s decision to adopt Kansas Common Core Standards for English, language arts and mathematics, and the work our state has done in developing our Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant application will facilitate growth in that area over time,” DeBacker said.
The state’s fourth-grade scores were 224 in reading and 246 in math, based on a 500-point scale. Nationally, they were 220 in reading and 240 in math. Kansas eighth-graders scored 267 in reading and 290 in math, while nationally they were 264 in reading and 283 in math.
Kansas is applying for a federal Race to the Top grant that awards states funding to implement programs targeted at improving achievement among students who historically have struggled to keep pace with requirements. Both the Kansas and national scores reflect continued achievement gaps between white students and minorities, as well as those students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches.
State officials reference 2003 figures as a benchmark because that’s when Kansas adopted new curriculum standards and was the first year the state had 100 percent participation from schools selected to take the NAEP tests.
However, Kansas has shown steady progress since 2000 in fourth- and eighth-grade scores, consistently ranking in the top 10 among states nationally. The NAEP scores are generally considered the nation’s report card because they assess student knowledge on generally accepted academic standards.
In addition to the 500-point scale, NAEP scores also rate students based on competency in each subject area, either below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, states are to reach 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014 on assessments developed and administered by each state, though President Barack Obama is encouraging states to apply for waivers to allow for more time to reach those marks.
Kansas is expected to apply for a waiver in February.
In 2011, 36 percent of Kansas fourth-graders taking the NAEP test were proficient or better in reading, compared to 32 percent nationally. In math, 48 percent of fourth-graders were proficient or better, compared with 39 percent nationally.
At the eighth-grade level, 36 percent of Kansas students taking the reading test were proficient or better, compared with 32 percent nationally, while 40 percent were proficient in math, compared with 34 percent nationally.