Florida is among nine states whose eighth-graders made increases on a closely watched national reading test last year, and Florida fourth-graders now trail peers in only six other states, according to scores released this morning.
In 2009, Florida's eighth-graders bested the national average in reading for the first time, with 76 percent reading at a basic level or above, up from 71 percent in 2007, according to the latest results from the National Assessment of Education Progress.
The NAEP test is often called "the nation's report card" and is widely considered a credible measure of a state's academic performance. The NAEP reading test is given to a representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders in all 50 states every other year.
The percentage of Florida fourth-graders reading at basic level or above also increased since 2007, from 70 to 73 percent, but the change is not considered statistically significant. Nonetheless, Florida now trails only Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Virginia in fourth-grade reading (though it's tied at that spot with five other states). In 1998, Florida fourth-graders ranked near the bottom nationally.
The nation's progress since 2007 mirrored Florida's, with stagnation in fourth grade (67 percent scored at basic or above, the same as in 2007) and a slight uptick in eighth grade (74 percent to 75 percent).
"While 4th-graders haven't shown continued progress in reading from 2007, it is encouraging to see 8th-graders making gains," David P. Driscoll, chair of the national board that sets NAEP policy, said in a statement. "And it should be noted that 8th-grade students performing in the lower percentiles had higher scores, which suggests that many students who need the most help are making progress."