MA tops nation in reading for 3rd time in a row

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From the Department of Education’s press release: “Massachusetts 4th and 8th Graders Rank First in Reading on 2009 NAEP Exam. Results Mark Third Time in a Row MA Students Have Outscored the Nation.”

Great news!

According to results of the 2009 NAEP exam, the state’s 4th graders scored an average of 234 on the reading assessment, well above the national average of 220 and first in the nation. At grade 8, Massachusetts students achieved the highest average of 274, which exceeded the national average of 262 and tied for first with five other high performing states: New Jersey (273); Connecticut and Vermont (272); and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania (271).

Some cause for concern is the flattening out of performance. Commissioner Chester is right to be concerned about the flattening on the 8th grade math, and the 4th grade math and reading, because it is post-2007 so may carry political weight.

While Massachusetts students retained their top ranking on NAEP, performance in reading remained the same for all students and student groups between 2005 and 2009. In 2007, Massachusetts 4th graders scored an average of 236, and 8th graders scored an average of 273 compared to this year’s 234 and 274 respectively.

I am flabbergasted by the progress we have made from 1992 to 2009:
– 4th grade Math – MA 227 to 252 vs. NATION 219 to 239
– 8th grade Math – MA 273 to 299 vs. NATION 267 to 282
– 4th grade Read – MA 226 to 234 vs. NATION 215 to 220

And from 1998 to 2009
– 8th grade Read – MA 269 to 274 vs. NATION 261 to 262

And from 1998 to 2007
– 8th grade Writing – MA 155 to 167 vs. 148 to 154

There is also some interesting data “beneath the fold,” if you will. If you look at the demographic breakdowns for both grades 4 and 8 — not at the comparative GAP statements, but rather at the “below Basic” numbers from 1992 to the present for blacks and Hispanics, you will see that there has been extraordinary progress shrinking the “below Basic” tranche among minorities. Odd that the “below basic” data did not make it into the department’s press release.

This is worth looking at, and comparing to the progress in other states.