W.Va. only state to see 8th-grade NAEP reading increase

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W.Va. only state to see 8th-grade NAEP reading increase
By Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia was the only state in the nation to see its eighth-grade average reading score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress increase significantly over 2013, but it was among 22 states to see their eighth-grade math scores significantly fall from two years ago, according to 2015 data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Mountain State also saw no statistically significant changes in its average reading or math scores for public students in fourth grade, the only other grade included on the NAEP reporting website, The Nation’s Report Card.

The 2015 NAEP scores are based on tests given to nearly 600,000 students in almost 14,000 schools.

The NAEP, the biggest nationally representativ​e assessment of the nation’s students, is given to a sample of students every two years.

The nationwide average reading score for public school students stayed the same from 2013 to 2015 in fourth grade, at 221, while it dropped in eighth grade by two points, to 264.

Comparatively, West Virginia’s average reading score for fourth grade grew one point, to 216 — not deemed a significant difference by the federal education department on its 0 to 500 point scale — but it saw a three-point increase in eighth grade, to reach 260, a significant increase and four points shy of the national average. Reading increases in neither grade make the Mountain State’s scores significantly different than where they were in 1998, the department’s data note.

The fourth-grade reading performance gap between West Virginia’s white and black students is now narrower than it was in 1998, but that gap has not significantly narrowed for eighth grade, with white students still outscoring blacks.

West Virginia’s 2015 NAEP average scores are considered significantly lower than 34 states in fourth-grade reading, 32 states in eighth-grade reading, 34 states in fourth-grade math and 43 states in eighth-grade math.

The state’s reading performance gap between students who are ineligible and those who are eligible for free or reduced school lunches, a family income indicator, is not significantly different than it was in 1998 in both grades.

The nationwide average score decreased from 2013 to 2015 for both grades in math: from 241 to 240 in fourth grade and 284 to 281 in eighth.

West Virginia saw its fourth-grade average math score drop from 237 to 235, not deemed a significant difference, while it saw an eighth-grade drop from 274 to 271, a significant difference. The 2015 Mountain State math scores in both grades remain significantly higher than they were in 2000, the year to which the department compared the math results.

West Virginia math performance gaps between black and white students remain about as wide as they were in 2000 for both grades, as does the math performance gap between students eligible and ineligible for free and reduced lunch in fourth grade. However, the math performance gap for such students has narrowed in eighth grade.

In reading, 10 states saw increases from 2013 to 2015 in fourth-grade average scores while their eighth-grade scores stayed the same, and two — North Carolina and Wyoming — saw their fourth-grade average reading scores grow while their eighth-grade reading scores dropped. One state, Maryland, saw drops in its average reading score in both grades.

On a national scale, two student subgroups that greatly reflect West Virginia — white students and students attending schools in rural locations — saw no change in their average reading score in fourth grade and a drop in their average reading score in eighth grade. Black and Hispanic students also reflected this trend.

No state, nor any national subgroup of students, saw increases in math scores in both fourth and eighth grades. Mississippi was the only state that saw an increase for math, and then only in fourth grade.

Eight states saw average math scores decrease in both grades. Nationally, white students, female students and students attending small-town or rural school locations also saw drops in average math scores in both grades, while male, black and Hispanic students saw their fourth-grade math scores hold steady while their eighth-grade scores dropped.

Earlier this week, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Urban Institute released a study indicating that — when analyzing NAEP scores, looking at demographic changes and predicting how those changes would affect scores — every state increased student learning from 2003 to 2013. The report said 2003 was the first year all states were required to participate in the NAEP,

However, the Mountain State and South Dakota, the only two states whose raw scores actually decreased over that decade, had the two lowest learning gains after adjusting for the changing demographics, such as increases in the number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch.

“Scores in every single state increased more than would have been expected based on demographics,” noted the report, by Urban Institute senior fellow Matthew Chingos. “But adjusted score increases varied widely, from a 2-month increase of learning in South Dakota to a 16-month increase in Nevada.”

The report concluded that the Mountain State students tested in 2013 were about two to three months ahead in learning when compared to different West Virginia students tested in 2003.

“States such as Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas have students who outperform their peers in other states and where performance increased more than in the average state,” the report stated. “Other states, such as Michigan, Mississippi, and West Virginia, have not increased their performance as rapidly and are below average in terms of demographically adjusted performance levels.”