(FRANKFORT, KY.) — Kentucky’s public school students continue to outperform their peers nationally in 4th- and 8th-grade reading and in 4th-grade mathematics, according to data released Oct. 28 from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

However, Kentucky’s 8th-grade students scored below the national average in mathematics, mirroring a drop seen nationally among middle schoolers.

“While we are encouraged by our students’ performance in reading, middle school math continues to be a concern and an area where we need additional emphasis going forward,” said Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt. “I look forward to partnering with shareholders to seek solutions and ensure ALL students have the opportunities they need to achieve mathematics literacy, achieve at high levels and become college- and career-ready. We owe this to our students to ensure they can succeed in the career path of their choosing.”

NAEP is administered to a random sampling of students in 4th and 8th grades. Not all students, schools or districts participate.

The 2015 data indicate:

  • Only a handful of states scored higher than Kentucky in 4th-grade and 8th-grade reading. The average reading score of 4th-grade students in Kentucky was 228. This was significantly higher than the average of 221 for public school students across the United States. The average reading score of 8th-grade students in Kentucky was 268. While down slightly from the 2013 NAEP administration, the drop is not considered statistically significant and was still higher than the average score of 264 for public school students across the nation.
  • In 4th-grade mathematics, the average score of Kentucky students was 242 – slightly higher than the average score of 241 for public schools students nationally. Fewer than 10 states scored higher than Kentucky. The average mathematics score of 8th-grade students in Kentucky was 278 as compared with 281 nationally. Kentucky’s eighth grade mathematics scores mirrored a three-point drop seen nationally.

Kentucky’s results have remained steady over the past few years, with minor gains and losses, yet are up over time. Since 1998, Kentucky’s 4th-graders have gained 10 points on the NAEP reading assessment and 8th-graders have gained six points. Since 2000, Kentucky’s 4th-graders have gained 23 points on the NAEP mathematics assessment and 8th-graders have gained 8 points. 

In 2015, all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools, participated in the NAEP reading and mathematics assessments.

“The information included in the NAEP results provides useful information on how students are performing not only in Kentucky, but across states,” Pruitt said. “While many states saw scores decrease this year – particularly at the 8th-grade level – according to analysis at the national level, the data doesn’t support one specific reason why this happened.”

The NAEP grading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Students’ performance on NAEP fits into one of four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient or Advanced.

In Kentucky, in reading, 75 percent of 4th-graders and 78 percent of 8th-graders scored at the Basic level or above. In mathematics, 84 percent of 4th-graders and 68 percent of 8th-graders scored at the Basic level or above.

NAEP protects the confidentiality of students, teachers and schools that participate by not reporting individual student, teacher or school data. However, NAEP does provide results for major demographic groups, and states that meet NAEP reporting criteria are able to compare their results with both national results and the results of other states.

“When we look at a break down in scores by gender, free/reduced-price meal eligibility and ethnicity, we see some very modest improvements in closing the achievement gap in some areas, and in other areas are seeing it increase,” Pruitt said. “We have to find a way to consistently close the achievement gap and any learning opportunity gaps that may exist by increasing the achievement levels for all students. According to the 2015 TELL Kentucky Survey, six out of every 10 teachers in Kentucky say they need more professional learning on how to effectively close the achievement gaps in their classrooms, so making sure they get the help they need will be one place to start.”

For more than 40 years, NAEP has been the country’s only nationally representative and continuing survey of students’ educational achievement. The assessment is authorized by Congress, directed by the National Center for Education Statistics and developed by Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. Westat Inc. of Rockville, Md., conducts sample selection and data collection.

More information is available from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.