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NEWS RELEASES 2007-08 :: SEPTEMBER 25, 2007


The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card, showed North Carolina fourth and eighth graders' performance on par with or better than the nation's performance in reading and mathematics, according to information released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). North Carolina is the state with the most gains in NAEP math scores since 1990.

Today's report included national and state-level information. Local information is unavailable because the NAEP is given to a sample of students representing the state overall. Comparisons between North Carolina students and the nation are made using public school scores only.

When comparing scores on the mathematics assessment, North Carolina scored higher than the national average at both measured grades. For fourth grade, the average scale score in North Carolina was 242, versus 239 for the nation. For eighth grade, North Carolina scored 284, versus 280 for the nation. NCES analysts rated North Carolina's mathematics scores as significantly higher than the nation's in fourth and eighth grades.

Only eight states had a higher percentage of students performing at the Basic level or better than North Carolina did in fourth grade math. For eighth grade math, North Carolina's performance showed 15 states and the Department of Defense schools posting more students at the Basic level or better.

In reading, North Carolina's score was 218 in fourth grade, compared to the national average of 220. Eighth grade reading scores were 259 for North Carolina and 261 for the nation. NCES did not consider North Carolina's average reading score for either grade to be significantly different from that of the nation.

At a news briefing held today in Raleigh, State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee continued to stress the need for a greater emphasis on reading and for continued focus on professional development for mathematics and reading teachers.

"NAEP results show us that efforts to provide quality professional development in mathematics instruction have paid off," said State Superintendent Atkinson. "North Carolina's performance in mathematics has been strong. We need to continue that focus on professional development in both subject areas."

While noting that North Carolina's performance on NAEP shows the state to be a leader in the Southeast, State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said, "Reading is a critical skill and one that benefits from a culture that emphasizes reading in the home and in the community. We need every family to create an environment that supports reading as a lifelong pastime. And, we need to continue our work to ensure that teachers from kindergarten through high school know how to help students become better readers."

North Carolina has been working on improving reading instruction in several ways. Reading First has provided intensive assistance in approximately 100 elementary schools with low reading achievement. In addition, under an initiative of Gov. Mike Easley, 200 middle school literacy coaches are being deployed to help teachers reach students who are having reading difficulties before they make the transition to high school. The More at Four pre-kindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds is providing crucial early preparation to help more students succeed in school.

NAEP measures student performance and categorizes performance for the nation and each state. NAEP results are reported in two ways – as average scale scores and as the percentage of students scoring Below Basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced. These four categories of performance indicate the level of student mastery. In general, NAEP results of Basic or above are similar to the grade level proficiency standard measured on North Carolina's end-of-grade tests in grades 3-8. The accompanying charts show North Carolina's performance against other states in terms of scale scores and achievement levels over time.

The performance levels of Below Basic through Advanced are set by the National Assessment Governing Board and are considered very rigorous. North Carolina has participated in the NAEP since it began although state participation was not required prior to 2002. Today's report includes performance information for all states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The NAEP assesses mathematics in five content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis and probability; and algebra. The NAEP measures reading in three contexts: reading for literary experience, to gain information and to perform a task. The scale for the test is 0-500 in both subjects.

The 2007 NAEP was given in North Carolina to fourth graders in 170 schools. A total of 5,500 students took the fourth grade reading assessment, and 5,600 students took the fourth grade math assessment. For eighth grade, 152 North Carolina schools participated. A total of 4,200 eighth graders took the reading assessment; 4,000 took the math.

For more information on NAEP results, please contact the NC Department of Public Instruction's Communications division at 919.807.3450.

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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.