RICHMOND – Virginia fourth graders outperformed their nationwide peers in mathematics and reading on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The national tests — also known as the Nation’s Report Card — are taken every two years by representative samples of fourth- and eighth-grade students in each state and nationwide.
For the first time, 50 percent of Virginia fourth graders achieved at or above the proficient level in mathematics, with 12 percent earning advanced scores. Students in no other state performed at a statistically higher level.
The national testing program defines proficiency as “solid academic performance…over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”
Nationwide, only 40 percent of public school fourth-grade students achieved at or above the proficient level in mathematics, with eight percent achieving advanced scores.
Forty-three percent of the commonwealth’s grade-4 students met or exceeded the rigorous national standard for proficiency in reading, with 12 percent demonstrating advanced reading skills. Only students in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Department of Defense schools performed at a statistically higher level in fourth-grade reading.
Although the overall performance of Virginia fourth graders on the 2017 NAEP was statistically similar to 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says Virginia fourth graders have made statistically significant gains in reading during the last two decades.
“When you plot out the data for the last decade or so, you see Virginia fourth-graders consistently performing well above the national average in reading and mathematics and a long-term trend of ever-higher achievement in both subjects,” Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Constantino said. “I think this speaks to the quality of our teachers and their dedication to helping all students meet high expectations.”
Nationwide, 35 percent of fourth-grade public school students demonstrated reading skills at or above the proficient level, with nine percent achieving advanced scores.
The achievement gaps between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in grade-4 mathematics widened as a result of an eight-point increase in the percentage of white students achieving at or above the proficient level. Sixty-five percent of white Virginia fourth graders earned proficient or advanced scores, compared with 24 percent of blacks and 31 percent of Hispanics.
There were no statistically significant changes in the achievement gaps in fourth-grade reading between white students and black and Hispanic students. Fifty-four percent of white Virginia fourth graders performed at or above the proficient level, compared with 21 percent of blacks and 29 percent of Hispanics.
“Under the Board of Education’s new accreditation system that goes into effect this fall, schools will be rated on whether groups of students — such as students of color and students in poverty — are meeting expectations or making progress, as well as on overall achievement and growth,” Constantino said. “This is a significant change in Virginia’s accountability system and is designed to shine a light on achievement gaps and incentivize schools and divisions to narrow and, ultimately, close them.”
The overall performance of Virginia eighth graders on the 2017 national mathematics and reading tests also was little changed from 2015.
In mathematics, 40 percent of Virginia eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced scores in 2017, with 13 percent performing at the advanced level. Nationally, 33 percent of public school eighth graders achieved at the proficient level or above. Ten percent of students nationwide achieved advanced scores.
Thirty-seven percent of Virginia eighth-grade students achieved at or above the proficient level in reading, with four percent achieving advanced scores. Eighth graders in only five states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont — and Department of Defense schools achieved at a statistically higher level.
Nationally, 35 percent of eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced reading scores, which was a two-point — but not statistically significant — improvement compared with 2015. Four percent of students tested nationwide scored at the advanced level.
The percentage of black eighth graders achieving proficient or advanced math scores increased by eight points, to 20 percent in 2017, compared with 12 percent in 2015. While this represented a significant gain for black students, the improvement did not translate into a statistically significant narrowing of the achievement gap with white students.
I am happy to see that Virginia students and educators are continuing to excel, compared to the national averages,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “We remain committed to closing the achievement gap for students of color which is a high priority for this administration. This is great news as we strive to ensure that every student in the Commonwealth is prepared with the educational foundation to enter the workforce and to be part of the 21st-century economy.”
Forty-eight percent of white eighth graders earned proficient or advanced math scores, which was statistically similar to achievement in 2015. The performance of Hispanic eighth graders on the national math test also was relatively unchanged, with 28 percent achieving at the proficient level or higher.
“Overall we are impressed with the performance by our 4th and 8th graders, but we are particularly proud of the 4th grade math scores. These students outperformed other 4th graders nationwide which is a testament to their hard work and our dedicated educators throughout the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.
NAEP results reflect the performance of representative samples of students in each state and nationwide. The 2017 NAEP sampling of Virginia students included approximately 2,300 fourth-grade students and approximately 2,200 eighth graders.
NAEP results are not reported for school divisions or for individual schools.
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