Florida scores stall on national math test
After years of steady gains, Florida math scores stalled this year on a respected national test, according to results released this morning. But because scores in other states didn't budge much either, Florida's overall rankings actually improved.
The math component of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as the "nation's report card," is periodically given to a statistically representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country.
This year, 86 percent of Florida’s fourth-graders scored at the basic level or above, the same percentage that did so when the test was last given in 2007. Back then, Florida's fourth-grade performance put it in a tie with one other state at No. 16. Now it's in a five-way tie at No. 12, with Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota.
Meanwhile, 70 percent of Florida’s eighth-graders scored at basic or above, which is up from 68 percent in 2007, but not enough to be considered statistically significant. In 2007, that showing put Florida at No. 35. Now it's tied with Kentucky at No. 34.
Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith chose to look at the bright side. Since 2003, Florida's gains on the NAEP math test have outpaced the nation's, and fourth-grade minority students and students with disabilities are scoring "well above" the national average, according to a Florida Department of Education analysis.
"I'm proud to see that we were able to hold our ground this year and maintain the incredible academic success that our teachers and school administrators have worked so hard to accomplish," Smith said in a written statement. "We certainly have more work to do, but these latest results contain a lot of encouraging news and I can't wait to see what our students are able to accomplish moving forward."
Nationally, scores were stagnant in fourth grade but showed modest improvement in eighth grade. Eight states showed improvement in fourth grade, and 15 states saw gains in eighth. Only four states – Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont – showed increases in both.
Achievement gaps between white and minority students did not narrow in either grade.
The Education Trust called the national trends "worrisome."
"Unfortunately, we know from research that the curricula and instruction in most of our nation’s public schools — particularly in those serving mostly low-income students and students of color — fall far short of those in countries that outperform us on international mathematics assessments," said the group, which focused on teacher quality and the achievement gap. "Many state math standards remain woefully low and far too broad. Few aim all students toward education beyond high school. Low-income and minority students are still more likely than others to be enrolled in lower-level high school math courses and to be taught math by out-of-field teachers."
There are no district-by-district or school-by-school results for the NAEP math test.