NEWS RELEASES 2017-18 :: APRIL 10, 2018

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North Carolina’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 largely mirrored nationwide results, with fourth and eighth graders generally performing at similar levels as 2015, when the last nationwide assessment was administered.

The NAEP assessment, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and also known as The Nation’s Report Card, measures math and reading performance of a representative sample of students in the fourth and eighth grades every two years in each state and the jurisdictions of the District of Columbia, U.S. Department of Defense schools and Puerto Rico (math only). NAEP summary results are reported in terms of average scale scores and performance levels, from below basic to advanced. The NAEP proficiency levels are set at a very rigorous level, and the proficient level is defined as mastery over challenging subject matter. NAEP’s proficient standard is roughly equivalent to North Carolina’s standard for College and Career Readiness used in measuring student performance on the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

As with most other states, North Carolina saw little movement since 2015 on the latest NAEP assessment. Fourth graders in North Carolina maintained performance in reading that was above the national average. Fourth-grade performance in math ticked down slightly from 2015 with a loss of 3 points, putting the state on par with the nation for the first time since 1996. Eighth grade performance held steady at the national average in both math and reading compared to 2015, with slight upticks in scores but the differences were not considered to be statistically significant.

"Teachers in North Carolina are working hard, and our state has made strong investments in early grades,” said Mark Johnson, state superintendent. “While it is frustrating for educators and state leaders to see incremental progress instead of general success, we have spearheaded efforts to ensure that all funds invested by our state actually benefit teachers and students. Also, with new leadership at DPI, we have been reevaluating how those funds can best be used to support teachers and to improve students outcomes." 

The information below provides an overview of North Carolina’s performance on the 2017 NAEP. Detailed reports on each assessment, by grade and subject, can be accessed here on the DPI website.

Fourth-grade math

Looking at the results of all states and jurisdictions, for fourth-grade math performance, North Carolina was one of 10 states that saw statistically significant declines in their scores from 2015. In terms of performance levels, North Carolina’s results showed that 42 percent of students met NAEP’s “proficient” standard or higher, a percentage that was statistically similar to that of 23 states, including North Carolina. (Ten states achieved higher rates of proficiency, 20 lower.)

Fourth-grade reading

In fourth-grade reading, North Carolina was one of 43 states and jurisdictions with no significant change in their scores from 2015. With 39 percent performing at the proficient level or better, it was one of 28 states with similar proficiency levels. (Five states were higher; 19 lower.)

Eighth-grade math

For eighth-grade math results, North Carolina was one of 47 states with no significant change in their scores from 2015. Just one state and one jurisdiction saw significant increases, and three states saw declines in their scores. North Carolina, with a proficiency rate of 35 percent in eighth-grade math, was among 20 states with statistically similar performance. (Thirteen states were higher; 20 were lower.)

Eighth-grade reading

In reading at the eighth grade, North Carolina was one of 41 states that had no significant change in scores. Ten states saw gains and one declined. With a proficiency rate of 33 percent, North Carolina was one of 21 states with performance that was statistically similar. (Twenty states had higher rates of proficiency; 11 were lower.)

Trends over time for North Carolina also tend to reflect performance nationwide.

In fourth-grade math, despite the 3-point decline between 2015 and 2017, North Carolina’s score has increased from 230 to 241, a statistically significant change, and the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level or better has increased from 25 percent in 2000 to 42 percent in 2017. Reading scores among fourth graders have also improved long term, from a score of 213 in 1998 to 224 in 2017; and the percentage of students scoring proficient or better has improved from 27 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2017.

Although not as pronounced, eighth grade performance in math also has improved since 2000, with an increase in score from 276 to 282 last year, and a proficiency rate improvement from 27 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2017. However, reading performance among eighth graders has remained essentially flat since 1998, with this year’s score of 263 not significantly different from 262 in 1998. Likewise, the percentage of students achieving a score of proficient or better in 2017 (33), was not statistically different from the 30 percent who did so in 1998.

NAEP is the largest nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States. It has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP informs the public about what American students know and can do in various subject areas and compares achievement among states, large urban districts, and various student groups.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and then the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, Congress requires all states to participate in the NAEP reading and mathematics assessments at the fourth and eighth grades every two years as a condition for receiving federal aid. For the first time, 2017 NAEP results are from digital assessments, taken by 80 percent of all test takers nationally. The remaining 20 percent of paper assessments were used to ensure equivalence with past assessments. All 50 states and the District of Columbia and schools operated by the Department of Defense participate in both the reading and math portions of the national assessment. Puerto Rico also participates in the math assessment.

The NAEP assesses reading in both literary (fiction, literacy nonfiction, and poetry) and informational texts (exposition, argumentation and persuasive texts, and procedural texts and documents). The NAEP assesses mathematics in five content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra.

Comparisons between North Carolina students' performance and the nation are made using public school scores only. NAEP results for the nation reflect the performance of students attending public schools (including charter schools), private schools, the Department of Defense schools and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

Only national- and state-level data are available because the NAEP is only given to representative samples of students in each state. Individual student scores are not provided. In addition to assessments in reading and math at fourth and eighth grades, NAEP assessments are also conducted in science, writing, civics, economics, geography, U.S. history and the arts.

For more detailed North Carolina results, follow links below:

2017 NAEP NC Fourth Grade Reading Snapshot
(pdf, 155kb)

2017 NAEP NC Eighth Grade Reading Snapshot
(pdf, 156kb)

2017 NAEP NC Fourth Grade Mathematics Snapshot
(pdf, 156kb)

2017 NAEP NC Eighth Grade Mathematics Snapshot
(pdf, 157kb)

Go here for the national NAEP website.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.