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For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

NAEP Writing Results Place Massachusetts Third Nationwide

Gender Gap Prompts Call for Renewed Focus on the Achievement of Boys

MALDEN - Massachusetts' eighth graders scored third in the nation on a national writing assessment in 2007, but girls significantly outscored their male classmates, prompting education officials to call for further attention to be paid to gender gaps. According to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results released Thursday, the Commonwealth's eighth graders scored an average of 167 on the writing assessment, significantly higher than the national average of 154. In all, 46 percent of the Massachusetts 8th graders scored at or above the Proficient level on the grade 8 NAEP Writing test, well above the national average of 31 percent. Girls scored significantly higher than boys on the assessment: 60 percent of girls scored at or above Proficient, as compared to just 32 percent of their male classmates. This gap was evident when the test was previously administered in 2002 and 1998. Nationally, 20 percent of boys performed at or above Proficient, as compared to 41 percent of girls. "I'm happy to see that once again Massachusetts as at the head of the pack, but the performance gaps reflected in this report are of deep concern," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chairman Paul Reville. "The gender gap in particular is a growing issue nationally because as the numbers show, our boys are falling behind in reading and writing. It is our responsibility to provide all students – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or income – with the right combination of services and support to succeed in our schools. Clearly, we have much work to do in closing these gaps." Acting Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Nellhaus agreed. "Writing is a critical life skill and it is unacceptable for this to be a problem area for any of our students," he said. "We need to reassess how we are both teaching and testing writing to ensure that every student gets the skills, practice and expertise they need to do well in school, college and in their future careers." In 2007, Massachusetts was outscored by Connecticut (172) and New Jersey (175), but scored higher than students in all other participating states. Writing scores were last reported in 2002, when the state's eighth graders tied for first with Connecticut, Vermont and Ohio. Other findings include:
  • The percent of students scoring at or above Proficient in 2007 was higher than in 1998 but statistically unchanged from the 2002 administration of the grade 8 Writing assessment: In 2007, 46 percent of eighth graders tested scored at or above Proficient, as did 42 percent in 2002 and 31 percent in 1998.
  • The average scaled score of Massachusetts eighth graders in writing in 2007 was 167, statistically unchanged from 163 in 2002 and significantly higher than the 1998 average of 155.
  • White students outscored black and Hispanic students in Massachusetts in 2007. Fifty-two percent of white students in Massachusetts scored at or above Proficient on the grade 8 NAEP writing test, compared to 19 percent of black students and 16 percent of Hispanic students.
  • 54 percent of student not eligible for free or reduced price lunch scored at or above Proficient, as compared to 21 percent of students tested who do qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
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 representative samples of students in all 50 states and reports state-level results at grades 4 and 8. More than 3,400 grade 8 Massachusetts public school students from 135 schools participated in the 50-minute NAEP Writing test in 2007. They were assessed on narrative, informative, and persuasive writing. Each student selected to take the assessment had 25 minutes each to respond to two prompts, which required them to write essays, letters, and stories for a variety of audiences. In 2005 Massachusetts' 4th and 8th graders ranked first on the reading exam and tied for first in Math, making Massachusetts the first state ever to rank first on all four NAEP exams in one year. In 2007 Massachusetts 4th and 8th graders did it again: 4th graders ranked first nationwide on the reading and math exams. The same year our eighth graders ranked first in math and tied for first in reading with Montana, New Jersey and Vermont. Additional information on NAEP is available on the Department's Web site at:, and on the Nation's Report Card Web site at:

Last Updated: April 3, 2008

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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