The biennial release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores is usually an opportunity for Massachusetts to crow about its top-scoring performance by fourth- and eight-graders on “America’s report card.’’ Once again, Massachusetts students topped or tied for first place in both English and math for both grades. But a disturbing finding jumps off the page: In grade four reading, the average score for Massachusetts students fell by five points, one of just a few statistically significant declines seen across the nation on that test.
Overall, 47 percent of Massachusetts students scored proficient or above on the fourth grade reading exam, compared to the national average of 34 percent. But that is cold comfort for a state that is so thoroughly dependent on quality schools and a highly educated workforce. And the gap between white students and students of color remains dramatic. Only one-fifth of black and Hispanic students in Massachusetts scored well on the test, compared with 57 percent of white and Asian students. Black students in states not normally associated with high test scores, including Florida, outscored their Massachusetts counterparts.