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Mass. students score well on national assessment exam

Massachusetts’ fourth- and eighth-graders have once again posted top scores in reading and math on a federal test often called the nation’s report card.

It was the fifth consecutive strong showing for Massachusetts students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. They ranked first for eighth-grade math scores, and tied for first in fourth-grade reading and math scores and in eighth-grade reading, according to results released Thursday.

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“Education is the Commonwealth’s signature calling card around the world,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more proud of our students, teachers, and school administrators whose dedication and hard work made this remarkable achievement possible.”

Although Massachusetts students scored well above the national average on all four tests, the average reading scores for fourth-graders declined by five points.

“Our lower grade reading scores are a cause for concern,” said Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

To address this issue, schools will begin implementing a curriculum of core state standards, which are more focused and rigorous. The standards put greater merit on reading, writing, speaking, and listening across all subjects, state officials said.

In addition, a new evaluation system for teachers will soon be implemented in hopes of strengthening best practices.

Massachusetts officials say they are also working to close achievement gaps. In all the categories of the National Assessment exam, white students outperformed minorities. In fourth-grade reading, for example, white students on average scored 32 more points higher than African-Americans and 33 points higher than Hispanic students.

Nationally, the most recent results show that the vast majority of the students still are not demonstrating solid academic performance in either math or reading.

Overall, just 42 percent of fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders hit that mark.

The assessment test is conducted every two years in all 50 states. For the 2013 test, 9,300 randomly selected fourth-graders and 8,500 eighth-graders took the tests.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report. Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Craven
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