To access Quick Links, visit our text-only version.

. Public Schools of North Carolina . . State Board of Education . . Department Of Public Instruction .

NEWS RELEASES 2003-04

NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: NOVEMBER 13, 2003

2003 NAEP READING AND MATHEMATICS RESULTS RELEASED

North Carolina fourth and eighth graders in 2003 posted scores better than the national average scores in reading and math, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released today. North Carolina's scale scores are numerically higher than the national average in every category and represent historical gains in mathematics.

"For the first time, North Carolina is leading the country in student achievement in fourth grade math," said Gov. Mike Easley. "And, North Carolina students continue to perform above the national and Southeastern averages. We must continue our investments in education to ensure that these trends continue. We must remain committed to eliminating the achievement gap, providing a high quality education for all children, and building a competitive workforce across the state."

This is the first year that results have been available for all 50 states, although North Carolina has participated voluntarily in NAEP for more than a decade. The federal education law, No Child Left Behind, now requires participation in NAEP, which is also called The Nation's Report Card. This year's report represents several "firsts," including the first year that scores have been reported in the same year that students took the tests and the first year that two subjects have been reported together. Additionally, this is the first time that performance has been reported by U.S. Census Bureau Regions and Divisions.


Fourth grade performance

North Carolina fourth graders posted average scale scores in mathematics and reading that were higher than the national average scale scores on the 2003 NAEP. Also, the percentages of North Carolina's fourth graders who performed at or above the proficient levels in reading and mathematics were higher than the nation.

In mathematics, North Carolina's fourth grade score was 242, higher than the nation's public school score of 234. No other state or jurisdiction scored significantly higher than North Carolina's fourth grade students in 2003. This score placed the state ahead of those in 44 other jurisdictions. Forty-one percent of North Carolina fourth graders performed at or above the NAEP proficient level in 2003, much higher than in 2000 when 25 percent of the state's fourth graders scored at that level. Nationally, only 31 percent of the students scored at or above the proficient level in 2003. Fourth grade mathematics was last given in 2000.

In reading, North Carolina's average scale score was 221, statistically similar to the 2002 reading score. North Carolina's score was higher than the nation's public school score of 216. This score placed North Carolina behind seven jurisdictions, ahead of 19 jurisdictions, not significantly different from 26 jurisdictions. Thirty-three percent of North Carolina students were found to be at or above the proficient level, which is one percentage point higher than the 2002 score. Nationally, 30 percent of the students scored at or above the proficient level in 2003.


Eighth grade performance

North Carolina eighth graders posted mathematics scores that were higher than the national average scale scores and North Carolina's eighth graders who performed at or above the proficient level in mathematics was higher than the nation. In reading, the eighth grade scores were statistically the same as the national average and the percentage of eighth graders that performed at or above the proficient level was not significantly different from the nation.

For mathematics, the North Carolina average scale score was 281, higher than the nation's public school average scale score of 276. Among the 53 states and jurisdictions that participated in the 2003 assessment, this placed North Carolina behind eight jurisdictions, ahead of 22 other jurisdictions, not significantly different from 22 jurisdictions. Thirty-two percent of North Carolina eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level, up from 27 percent in 2000. Nationally, 27 percent of the students scored at or above the proficient level in 2003.

In reading, the North Carolina average scale score was 262, down from the 2002 score but not significantly different from scores in 1998. The nation's public schools average scale score was 261. The state's performance places above 15 jurisdictions, not significantly different from 11 jurisdictions and below 26 jurisdictions. Twenty-nine percent of North Carolina eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in reading, not significantly different from 2002. Nationally, 30 percent of the students scored at or above the proficient level in 2003.


Trends over time are key indicators

"While it is important to pay attention to year-to-year changes in assessment scores, trends over time are the key to reaching many of North Carolina's education goals. The 2003 NAEP scores show that we have some very positive trendlines, particularly in the fourth grade and especially in mathematics," said State Superintendent Mike Ward. Ward serves as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) that guides NAEP.

The 2003 NAEP results in reading reflect scores above the nation and the Southeast, but there are not significant differences from the scores in 2002. Ward states, "We feel very confident that the renewed emphasis on reading from the federal Reading First grant which North Carolina received this year will help our efforts to boost reading skills." Ward also noted that the scores reported today reflect increases over only one year for reading, which was last assessed in 2002, but increases over three years for mathematics, which was last assessed in 2000.

In addition to the $16 million Reading First grant, state education officials also have focused attention in the past few years on strengthening the mathematics and English language arts curriculum and providing aligned professional development for teachers.

While scores in mathematics went up for nearly every racial group and for students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, achievement gaps were similar to prior years. In grade 8 reading, the gap between male and female students widened. Females' average scores are 11 points higher than males' average scores in eighth grade reading. State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee noted, "Although we have been paying significant attention to achievement gaps in recent years, this is a reminder that our work needs to continue and at a much faster pace."


Regional performance is strong

North Carolina's scores were higher than the South Census Bureau region average scores at both grades and subjects.

North Carolina is included in Region 3, the South Census Bureau Region, Division 5, South Atlantic. Other states in North Carolina's division are: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Other states in the South Region are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee (East South Central) and Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas (West South Central). The South Region with 16 states and the District of Columbia is the largest region.


NAEP background

The NAEP assesses mathematics in five content areas: number sense, properties and operations; measurement; geometry and spatial sense; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra and functions. The NAEP assesses reading in three contexts: literary experience, to gain information and to perform a task. The NAEP scale is 0-500 in mathematics and reading.

The 2003 NAEP release covers mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8 and covers tests given in the spring of 2003 to samples of students in 53 states and jurisdictions. In North Carolina approximately 5,000 fourth graders were assessed for each subject and approximately 4,000 eighth graders were assessed. NAEP is given to a statewide sample of students; therefore, local scores are not available. However, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools participated in NAEP's Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in 2003 along with nine other large urban school districts in the nation. The results for TUDA will be released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at a later date.

The NAEP allows exclusions for some students with disabilities when specified by the students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). North Carolina's 2003 exclusion rates were very similar to the national percentages.

For more information on North Carolina's performance, please contact the DPI Accountability Services Division at 919.807.3769. The full NAEP report can be accessed in an interactive database on the Web at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 107 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 Communications and Information, 919.807.3450.