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NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: JULY 10, 2003


North Carolina students were among the top performers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 writing assessment. North Carolina fourth and eighth graders scored above the Southeast and national averages. Results of the NAEP, often referred to as The Nation's Report Card, were released today by the U.S. Department of Education and by Governor Mike Easley at the State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh.

Just three states scored significantly higher than North Carolina fourth graders. Connecticut, Delaware and Massachusetts had scores that were significantly higher. The scores of North Carolina's fourth graders were similar ("not statistically different" is the term used by NAEP) to the scores of students from 12 states, and there were 27 states and the District of Columbia that had scores significantly below North Carolina.

At the eighth grade, the other grade tested, three states (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont) were significantly above North Carolina, while 11 states had similar scores and 26 states and the District of Columbia had scores significantly below students in our state. Other jurisdictions, including Guam and Department of Defense schools also took part in NAEP.

North Carolina eighth graders improved their writing performance from 1998. At grade eight in 2002, North Carolina's score increased by seven points from 1998, and our average scale score was five points higher than the national average. At grade four, North Carolina's students had an average scale score six points higher than the national average. Fourth graders participated in NAEP writing for the first time in 2002, while eighth graders were assessed in 1998 and 2002.

"I am very pleased to see our students performing at high levels on these exams," said Easley. "NAEP is the only true state-to-state comparison we have for student achievement and this shows that our students are competitive in the Southeast and across the nation. As with reading scores last month, these writing scores show that our investments in education are paying off. If we continue to make education a top priority and hold to high standards, then we will help all children achieve at high levels."

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said the scores show that North Carolina schools are focusing attention on some of the most critical skills that students need to succeed in school. "Our ABCs accountability program is paying off in improved student performance at every level. We're pleased to see this validation of the work that is being done in our schools."

State Superintendent Mike Ward commended the efforts of students, teachers, and all who support their efforts. He said that more and more schools are using data to identify specific areas where students need extra help. "The Department of Public Instruction staff, central office administrators and others in the community are stepping in to help ensure that students get the individual support they need. As we saw recently with NAEP reading results, these extra efforts are helping our students perform better than they ever have in the history of our state. We applaud this work and encourage more involvement and support for schools."

Fourth graders in North Carolina had the highest average scale score for the Southeast. For eighth grade, North Carolina students' score of 157 was tied with Virginia for the top score in the Southeast.

State officials attribute the gains to the state's writing assessments, training for school staff members, and the hard work by teachers in delivering the curriculum. The State Board of Education has consistently supported writing instruction in our schools.

Since 2002 was the first year for fourth grade NAEP writing assessment, comparisons can only be made to the nation. In grade four, North Carolina students had an average scale score of 159, which was significantly higher than that of the nation at 153.

Grade eight writing was assessed in 1998 and 2002. Eighth graders in our state improved their average score from 150 in 1998 to 157 in 2002. Eighth graders nationally improved from 148 in 1998 to 152 in 2002. Only five states made greater gains than North Carolina from 1998-2002. Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, and Massachusetts were the only states that gained more than North Carolina's seven points.

The latest scores reflect that more North Carolina students are meeting NAEP's high proficiency standards. In grade four, the percentage of North Carolina's students' performing at or above proficient was 32 percent in 2002. Nationally, 27 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficient. Thirty-four percent of our state's eighth graders performed at or above proficient, up from 27 percent in 1998. Nationally, 30 percent of eighth graders were at or above proficient.

State officials were disappointed that gaps in student performance did not close at an appreciable level on the NAEP writing assessment. In both grades four and eight, white students scored higher than black and Hispanic students. In grade eight, the gap between white and black performance decreased by one point from 1998 to 2002.

For grade four, North Carolina's exclusion rate was 7.2 percent, above the national average rate of 5.4 percent. North Carolina's exclusion rate for grade eight was 5.0 percent, above the national average of 4.2 percent. Schools determine which students to exclude from the testing, generally because the student's Individualized Education Program requires a testing accommodation that may not be offered by NAEP.

This assessment measures narrative, informative, and persuasive writing, the three purposes identified in the NAEP Framework. The NAEP writing scale ranges from 0-300.

NAEP is becoming more important since No Child Left Behind, the federal education improvement act, requires that states participate in the formerly optional NAEP testing. North Carolina has always participated in NAEP.

Samples of students in a state take part in NAEP. In 2002, 3,366 fourth graders in 112 North Carolina public schools took NAEP's writing assessment. A total of 2,698 eighth graders in 106 public schools in our state participated in the assessment.

State and national data and other information on NAEP are on the Web at

Earlier this summer the 2002 NAEP reading results were released. North Carolina fourth and eighth graders also were above the Southeast and national averages on this assessment. This fall, the 2003 NAEP reading and mathematics results will be released. Because NAEP is administered to a sample of students statewide, local school system results are not available.

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.