By Kari Hulac
While California’s eighth-graders made the biggest improvement in average reading scores in the country last year, according to an annual national assessment of students released Thursday, the state's pupils still ranked 36th in the nation.
According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, in 2013 the average reading score of California eighth-graders jumped from 255 to 262. National students on average scored 266 this year. There was no change in scores for higher achieving students and African American and Hispanic students.
More California students are performing at the proficient level in reading — 29 percent in 2013 compared to 24 percent in 2011 and 21 percent in 1998.
Also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” the NAEP test is an ongoing, nationally representative assessment designed to evaluate what American students in grades four and eight know and can do in a variety of subjects, including reading and science. It was established by Congress in 1969.
In 2013, the average score of California eighth-graders was 276. This was lower than the average score of 284 for public school students in the nation. The average score for students in California in 2013 (276) was not significantly different from their average score in 2011 (273) and was higher than their average score in 1990 (256).
The score gap between higher performing students in California (those at the 75th percentile) and lower performing students (those at the 25th percentile) was 51 points in 2013. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1990 (51 points). The percentage of students in California who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 28 percent in 2013. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2011 (25 percent) and was greater than that in 1990 (12 percent).
“The resilience and tenacity of our schools have seen them through some challenging years, and I’m glad to see this validation of the hard work of educators, students and their families,” said State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson in a press release about the reading scores.
“These scores are another sign that we are moving in the right direction to prepare students for college and career, but we still have a lot of work to do to make sure every student graduates equipped to succeed.”
State Board of Education President Mike Kirst agreed, noting that California’s scores climbed in nearly all the tested areas in addition to the grade eight reading jump.
“Literacy is at the core of a child’s education, and it’s remarkable to see such a major gain in scores in just one year,” Kirst said. “We can all look forward to seeing where our students go from here as we continue to improve teaching and learning.”
However, the state press release noted, while some gains were made this year in narrowing the gap between higher achieving students and African American and Hispanic students, a persistent achievement gap remained.
About 220 school districts and 740 schools in California participated in NAEP during the 2012-13 school year. NAEP results are reported for populations of students, not for individual students or schools. For complete state and national results, visit the NAEP Web site.Grade Four Reading and Math Scores
The average grade four reading score in California was 213, up 2 points from 2011 to 2013. California’s score was in the NAEP basic range. There were modest improvements overall, with white and Hispanic students performing above the state average. The achievement gap widened slightly between higher achieving students and African American students.
The average grade four mathematics score for California students was 234, remaining relatively unchanged from 2011 to 2013. California’s score was in the NAEP basic achievement level. There was a narrowing in scores between higher achieving students and Hispanic students.