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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: AUGUST 2, 2001


North Carolina's fourth and eighth grade students topped the national and regional average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress' (NAEP) 2000 Mathematics Assessment. Results of the NAEP, often referred to as The Nation's Report Card, were released today by the US Department of Education.

State education officials consider today's news an endorsement of the state's testing and accountability programs.

The latest results were released for two samples of students: one sample that did not allow accommodations for students with disabilities (the trend sample data) and one sample allowing accommodations for students with disabilities. In both cases, North Carolina's performance placed the state's average scale score above the national average. Only a few states outperformed North Carolina in the percentage of students who were proficient or above. A total of 40 states and six jurisdictions participated in the 2000 Mathematics Assessment.

North Carolina Results

For the trend sample (the sample that did not allow accommodations for students with disabilities), the average scale score for fourth grade students in North Carolina is 232. This score is six points higher than the national average of 226 and exceeds the Southeast region's score of 220 by 12 points.

North Carolina's eighth grade students achieved an average scale score of 280. This score is six points higher than the national average of 274 and exceeds the Southeast region's score of 265 by 15 points.

For the sample with accommodations, North Carolina's fourth grade average scale score was 230. That is five points higher than the national average of 225, and nine points higher than the Southeast average of 221.

For eighth graders in the sample that allowed accommodations, North Carolina's average scale score was 276. The national average was 273, and the Southeast average State Superintendent Mike Ward called the latest NAEP report a validation of the progress being shown on the state's own end-of-grade tests in mathematics. "The NAEP is a very rigorous measure of what students should know and be able to do in mathematics at a specific grade. North Carolina students' performance, compared to the nation and our region, verifies that we are continuing to make important progress in our schools."

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said that the latest NAEP information is a very strong indicator of the positive impact of the state's accountability program. "The increased emphasis on academic achievement is working. Although some concern has been expressed about the pressures associated with the state's testing and accountability programs, this news clearly shows that emphasizing the fundamental skills of reading and mathematics yields positive results in student achievement."

NAEP Achievement Levels Results

North Carolina students also showed positive gains on the NAEP achievement levels. Student scores are classified as Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The number of students performing below the Basic level at both grade levels has dropped considerably since the NAEP mathematics tests were first given. Likewise, the number of students performing At or Above Basic (Basic, Proficient and Advanced) has increased over time.

Since 1992, when 4th graders were first assessed, the percentage reported Below Basic dropped from 50 percent to 24 percent. The percentage of students At or Above Basic improved from 50 percent in 1992 to 76 percent in 2000. In 1992, only 13 percent of North Carolina students were At or Above Proficient, but this year that total is 28 percent.

Eighth graders were given the NAEP mathematics assessment for the first time in 1990, and have shown nearly an identical trend with the percentage of students Below Basic dropping from 62 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2000. Seventy percent of eighth graders were At or Above Basic in 2000, as compared to only 38 percent in 1990. Also, 30 percent of eighth graders were At or Above Proficient in 2000 as compared to only 9 percent in 1990.

For the sample of students that allowed accommodations, 27 percent of the fourth graders were Below Basic. The percentage of students in this group who were classified as At or Above Basic was 73 percent. Twenty-five percent of these students were at or Above Proficient.

Also in this second sample, 33 percent of North Carolina's eighth graders were Below Basic. Sixty-seven percent were at or above Basic and 27 percent were At or Above Proficient.

There are no previous years' data for the group allowing accommodations.

For the trend sample, North Carolina's fourth and eighth graders performed well when compared to students in the other participating states. Only Massachusetts and Minnesota performed significantly better than our state's fourth graders in terms of percentages of students at or above proficient. Two states (Minnesota, and Montana) performed significantly better than North Carolina's eighth grade students. North Carolina's performance placed it among the second tier group of states. Approximately half of the states are in the tier lower than North Carolina.

For the sample that allowed accommodations, three states performed significantly better at the fourth grade than North Carolina - Connecticut, Massachusetts and Minnesota. At the eighth grade level, four states were clearly in the tier ahead of North Carolina - Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, and Montana.

North Carolina's Progress Over Time - Trend Sample Data

In grade 4, the change in scale scores from 1992 to 2000 is 20 points. This is five points higher than Texas, the closest other state. North Carolina's improvement (eight points) in grade 4 from 1996 to 2000 was equal to Virginia and second only to Louisiana (nine points).

In grade 8, the change in scale scores from 1990 to 2000 is 30 points. This is 11 points higher than Ohio, the closest other state. The change in scale scores from 1992 to 2000 is 22 points, seven points higher than Ohio, again the closest other state. Since 1996, North Carolina's gain of 12 points is four points higher than Indiana, the state with the second highest gain.

North Carolina's data disaggregated by the reported ethnic groups (White, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian) indicate that each of the respective groups has made progress in mathematics since 1992 for grade 4 and 1990 for grade 8. In addition, results from 2000 indicated that each respective ethnic group surpassed its national counterpart. Since progress was made by each of the respective ethnic groups, there was no consistent pattern of closing the gap among the various groups.

Moving to a More Inclusive NAEP

The NAEP mathematics assessments are typically given every four years to a sample of approximately 2,400 students in grades four and eight in participating states. In 2000, two samples of North Carolina students were selected for participation in NAEP. In the trend sample, students with disabilities were not allowed to use accommodations. The second sample allowed the use of accommodations for students with disabilities.

State testing officials note that North Carolina schools at grade four in the trend sample excluded approximately 12 percent of students classified as students with disabilities while at grade eight, 13 percent of the students were excluded. These numbers of exclusions were higher than the national average (6 percent). In the trend sample schools excluded these students because the appropriate accommodations were not available to them as required by their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The trend sample, begun in 1990 for grade eight and 1992 for grade four, is required to maintain the same testing procedures for each test administration.

Some students in a second sample that participated in the NAEP were allowed to use certain accommodations if they were classified as students with disabilities and the IEP documented the need for the accommodation. In this second sample, only 5 percent of the students at both grades were excluded from the NAEP. The average score of the second sample, in which more students with disabilities took the tests, was a few points lower than the scores of the trend sample. Nonetheless, the scores of both groups topped the national and regional averages. North Carolina's state testing program generally provides accommodations such as scheduled extended time, reading the test aloud, testing in a separate setting, and Braille and large print editions for students if they are specified in the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). National officials have indicated that future reporting of NAEP in mathematics will use the sample allowing accommodations as the benchmark.

Lou Fabrizio, director of Accountability Services at the Department of Public Instruction, attributed the higher exclusion rate to North Carolina's state and local educators' commitment to meeting the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA mandates that assessment accommodations be used where appropriate in the testing of students with disabilities.

NAEP scores provide a comparison of North Carolina students with students from other states. North Carolina's own end-of-grade tests for elementary and middle school students measure many of the same competencies in mathematics as the NAEP assessments. North Carolina's performance on the NAEP mathematics assessments has shown gains each time the tests have been administered since the early 1990s.

For more information about The Nation's Report Card, Mathematics 2000, go to

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.