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NEWS RELEASES 1999-00 :: SEPTEMBER 28, 1999


Results Released for the First Time at the State Level

In the first-ever release by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of state-level writing scores, North Carolina ranked among a group of states scoring at or around the national average.

North Carolina's eighth graders' average scale score (150), surpassed the national average by two points (148), and the Southeast average by seven points (143). The NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, is the only ongoing national survey of what students know and can do in various academic subject areas.

"When it comes to making our schools 'First in America' by the year 2010, North Carolina is moving full steam ahead," said Gov. Jim Hunt. "And that is evident from our strong showing in national assessments and our continued progress. I am proud of the recognition we have received, but I'm even prouder of our students, teachers, parents and communities who continue to support our public schools. It takes teamwork that means all of us to become 'First in America.' We are well on our way."

"What an incredible first showing for our eighth graders," said State Superintendent Michael E. Ward. "I'm not terribly surprised by our students' performance considering our own state writing scores released in August showed that our fourth and seventh graders have made consistent gains in grade-level proficiency since the ABCs began in 1996."

[The North Carolina Assessment of Writing was administered statewide to all fourth- and seventh-graders on March 2. Results show that 55.2 percent of fourth graders scored at or above 2.5, considered to be the standard for the writing test. This is an improvement over 1996-97 when 48.6 percent of students met the standard. Seventh graders posted even more dramatic improvements. In 1996-97, 54.9 percent of seventh graders scored a 2.5 or better, but in 1998-99, 70.3 percent of them met the standard.]

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. agreed with Ward's comments adding, "The emphasis our public schools have placed on writing is paying off with performances that exceed the national average. I'm extremely proud of our principals, teachers and students who continue to work so hard in essential skill areas."

The percentage of the state's eighth graders' at or above the NAEP basic achievement level (85) also exceeded the nation's (83) and the Southeast's (81). The percentage of the state's eighth graders at or above the NAEP proficient level (27) also was above the nation's (24), and the Southeast's (19).

Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and the Department of Defense's Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools and Dependents Schools (Overseas) all scored significantly higher than the national average. Scoring at or around the national average were Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming. Seventeen states scored lower than the national average.

In addition to writing, the 1998 NAEP Assessment tested fourth and eighth graders' reading skills. Reading results released March 4, showed that North Carolina was one of only five states or jurisdictions that had significant gains in fourth grade reading skills from 1992-1998. North Carolina's fourth grade students' average scale score was 217 up three points from 1994 and surpassed the national average score of 215. The state's eighth graders, whose performance was available for the first time on a state-by-state basis, had an average scale score of 264, exceeding the national average score of 261.

A sampling of fourth and eighth grade students also were tested in 1996 to assess proficiency in mathematics. Results released in Feb. 1997 showed North Carolina fourth graders having the highest point gain in the nation (tied with Texas), 11 points, and besting the national average for the first time in addition to the Southeast average. Eighth-grade scores were above the Southeast average but slightly below the national average even though scores had risen by nine points since the test was given in 1992.

For further information on the state's NAEP results, please contact State Testing Coordinator Mildred Bazemore at 919.807.3774. Because NAEP is administered to a sampling of students statewide, local school system results are not available.

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About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.