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The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are in, and, once again, Massachusetts students have ranked at the top in both math and reading. The test, also known as the nation's report card was given to about 293,700 fourth and eighth graders in reading and roughly 296,900 fourth and eighth graders in math in 2019.
In both categories, the Massachusetts students scored around 10 points higher than the national average. State education secretary Jim Peyser called the consistent top ranking good news, adding that it’s a great reflection on the quality of Massachusetts schools and educators.
When compared to previous years the state’s performance remained largely consistent. Average reading scores dropped by four points for fourth graders and five points for eighth graders when compared to 2017. Math results were similar, with fourth grade scores down by two points and eighth grade scores down three points.
Those trends largely followed national patterns. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been little to no progress in math and reading performance. In fact, the lowest-performing students are actually doing worse.
“Over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students — those readers who struggle the most — have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago,” said Peggy G. Carr, NCES associate commissioner.
Taking A Closer Look
The report card took a deep dive into 27 large school districts around the country, including Boston Public Schools. Overall, the school system's scores were about on par with its performance in 2017. When compared to the other large districts, Boston students scored better than 20 districts in fourth grade math and reading, 24 districts in eighth grade math and 23 districts in eighth grade reading.
“I’m pleased that BPS continues to lead the nation in several areas,"Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto said in a statement. "But we all know there is more work ahead."
Achievement Gaps Persist
That work includes additional effort to close achievement gaps among district and state students. There was quite a bit of variation among demographic groups in Massachusetts.
The biggest gaps were seen in math scores. Asian fourth graders, for example, earned the highest math scores, coming in 18 points higher than white students, 38 points higher than Hispanic students and 39 points higher than black students.
While the 2019 data show some movement toward reducing the score gaps when compared to 2017, state leaders call the issue one of the greatest challenge facing educators.
“We need to maintain a sense of urgency around closing achievement gaps,” said Peyser. “We need to be holding ourselves accountable at a state level and a local level to make sure that’s happening.”
He added the education funding bill making its way through the legislature, known as the Student Opportunity Act, is a step in the right direction.
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