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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Massachusetts 4th and 8th Graders Rank First in Reading on 2009 NAEP Exam

Results Mark Third Time in a Row MA Students Have Outscored the Nation

MALDEN - The Commonwealth's 4th graders ranked first and 8th graders tied for first on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading exam in 2009, marking the third time in a row that the state's students outscored their peers nationwide, the Patrick-Murray Administration and education officials announced on Wednesday.

According to results of the 2009 NAEP exam, the state's 4th graders scored an average of 234 on the reading assessment, well above the national average of 220 and first in the nation. At grade 8, Massachusetts students achieved the highest average of 274, which exceeded the national average of 262 and tied for first with five other high performing states: New Jersey (273); Connecticut and Vermont (272); and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania (271).

"Education is our calling card around the world," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I couldn't be more proud of our students, teachers, and school administrators whose dedication and hard work made this remarkable achievement possible."

"I applaud the hard work of our students, teachers, and administrators as these consistent results indicate their strong effort and performance," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "As we continue to compete in a global economy, it is imperative that we position and prepare all of our students for success so that they can flourish in college, career, and life."

While Massachusetts students retained their top ranking on NAEP, performance in reading remained the same for all students and student groups between 2005 and 2009. In 2007, Massachusetts 4th graders scored an average of 236, and 8th graders scored an average of 273 compared to this year's 234 and 274 respectively.

"We should take a moment and congratulate the Commonwealth's students and educators for this remarkable feat," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "But while our results have improved compared to the beginning of the decade, I am troubled by our flat performance in reading over the past five years. Reading and writing across the content areas are critical to learning, and we need to ensure that all students develop and excel in the literacy skills that are pivotal to a lifelong education."

NAEP, also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in core subjects. NAEP assesses a representative sample of students in all 50 states and reports state-level results at grades 4 and 8. In Massachusetts, 3,900 students at grade 4 and 3,600 students at grade 8 were randomly selected to participate in the NAEP reading assessment. The NAEP reading scale ranges from 0 to 500.

"These remarkable results are further proof that engaged students and talented teachers can produce and sustain high levels of achievement," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Now, we must accelerate our efforts to help every student reach proficiency and higher."

Other results for Massachusetts students included:

Grade 4 Reading:

  • 47 percent of all Massachusetts students scored Proficient or above, significantly more than the national average of 32 percent.
  • The performance of the state's four largest racial/ethnic groups remained the same in 2009. White students scored on average 241, compared to 216 for African American students, 211 for Hispanic students, and 241 for Asian students.
  • 56 percent of white students scored Proficient or higher, as did 23 percent of African American students, 20 percent of Hispanic students, and 56 percent of Asian students.
  • Female students (average scaled score of 236) continue to outperform male students (231) in reading. Fifty percent of female students and 45 percent of male students scored Proficient or above.
  • In 2009, the performance of students with disabilities (average scaled score of 211), English language learners (198), and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (215) was flat since the last administration in 2007.

Grade 8 Reading:

  • 43 percent of all Massachusetts students scored Proficient or above, significantly more than the national average of 30 percent.
  • The performance of the state's four largest racial/ethnic groups remained the same in 2009. White students scored on average 279, compared to 251 for African American students, 250 for Hispanic students, and 281 for Asian students.
  • 49 percent of white students scored Proficient or higher, as did 17 percent of African American students, 17 percent of Hispanic students, and 50 percent of Asian students.
  • Female students at grade 8 outperformed male students both in terms of average scaled scores (279 to 269) and the percent scoring Proficient or above (49 percent to 37 percent).
  • The performance of students with disabilities (average scaled score of 251), English language learners (217), and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (254) did not change significantly between 2007 and 2009.

"While we should celebrate the Commonwealth's achievement, we must also highlight opportunities for improvement," said Commissioner Chester. "Gaps in reading achievement by race, ethnicity and income background are troubling, as is the lower performance of males compared to females. We clearly need to re-examine our elementary and secondary literacy programs to better address these gaps."

In 2009, a new NAEP reading framework was introduced that replaces the previous framework that guided the assessments from 1992 to 2007. The new framework includes an emphasis on fiction, non-fiction informational texts and vocabulary knowledge, a redefinition of reading cognitive skills and the addition of poetry in grade 4. Results from special analyses determined the 2009 reading assessment could still be compared with those from earlier years. A summary of this analysis and an overview of the differences are online at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/trend_study.asp.

The results of the NAEP science assessment, also administered in grades 4 and 8 in 2009, will be released this summer. Massachusetts 12th graders also participated in a pilot reading and math assessment along with seniors from 10 other states. Results of that pilot test will be released later this year.

Additional information on NAEP is available on the Nation's Report Card website at www.nationsreportcard.gov.



Last Updated: March 24, 2010
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