Massachusetts fourth- and eighth-graders continued their run of dominance in reading and math on a nationwide standardized test this year, scoring at or near the top of the heap for the eighth consecutive time, state officials said Wednesday.
But officials said a closer look at the figures reveals disparities between students that still need to be addressed.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced in a statement that Massachusetts students once again scored first or statistically tied for first on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam in the reading and math categories.
The 2019 results placed Bay State kids “first in fourth grade reading and tied for first among other states in fourth grade mathematics and eighth grade reading and mathematics,” the statement said. “Massachusetts students scored above the national average on all four tests.”
The NAEP test, commonly referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card,” is given every two years to a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders in each state, according to the statement.
State officials noted that African-American students in fourth grade saw their math scores rise this year. In addition, African-American students in eighth grade narrowed the gap between their average score and the average Massachusetts score.
However, the statement said, “achievement gaps for black and Latino students held steady or increased in most areas compared to 2017.”
Governor Charlie Baker lauded the 2019 scores.
“Massachusetts is proud to be a national leader in education, and we are pleased to see our students and teachers once again performing at the highest level,” Baker, a Republican, said in the statement. “We remain committed to closing achievement gaps for English language learners, low-income students and students with disabilities and look forward to putting accountability measures, programs and practices in place to support low-performing school districts.”
Baker’s sentiments were echoed by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
“I’m proud that Massachusetts students continue to excel in the classroom and lead the nation on this assessment,” Polito said in the statement. “I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms across the Commonwealth, and I continue to be impressed with the talent and ambition of our students. I believe these results provide an opportunity to focus on improvements to keep closing the achievement gap and seeking accountability in every district.”
Among the 2019 highlights:
In fourth-grade reading, Massachusetts had the “top scale score” of 231, the statement said. Forty-five percent of Massachusetts fourth graders scored proficient or above in reading, compared with the national average of 34 percent.
Massachusetts fourth-graders scored “statistically the same” in math as their counterparts in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wyoming, and all the remaining states scored lower, the statement said.
As for the eighth-graders, Massachusetts students had the “top scale score” of 273 in reading, tied for first with New Jersey and Connecticut. Massachusetts eighth-graders had a top scale score of 294 in math, tied for first with Jersey, the statement said.
“This year’s NAEP results confirm we must remain committed to a sense of urgency and accountability when it comes to deepening student learning and accelerating educational achievement, while reaffirming our core belief that all of our children, in every community of the Commonwealth, can achieve at high levels,” said Massachusetts Education Secretary James Peyser in the release.