NEWS RELEASES 2011-12 :: NOVEMBER 1, 2011


North Carolina fourth and eighth grade students are performing at the national average or better, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results just released by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). The NAEP is now required of every state and is often referred to as the nation's Report Card.

"I am committed to ensuring that all of our students perform at grade level, particularly in reading, writing and mathematics," Gov. Bev Perdue said. "These test scores show that we have made real progress, but still have more work to do to meet my goal of ensuring that every child has a chance to succeed in a career, in a two- or four-year college or in technical training. We continue to move kids forward in North Carolina. Our high school graduation rate is higher than ever, and today's scores in math and reading are going up as we invest in Career and College: Ready, Set, Go!"

State Superintendent June Atkinson noted that North Carolina public schools have been very focused on improving instruction and learning for students over the past decade and are making additional improvements to continue this focus.

"Mathematics and reading are critical skills for all students and provide the foundation for learning in other disciplines," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Our NAEP scores show that we have made progress in mathematics, but we continue to face challenges in improving reading performance.

"Our state's move next year to the Common Core state standards in reading and mathematics will give us the tools to help more students move into the Proficient and Advanced achievement levels."

North Carolina's reading scores show North Carolina fourth grade students earning an average score of 221 while the nation is at 220. At eighth grade, North Carolina's average score is 263, and the nation's average is 264. In reading, North Carolina's average score is not considered to be statistically different from the national scores, according to the NCES.

In mathematics, North Carolina fourth graders posted an average score of 245 as compared to the national average of 240. For eighth graders, the average mathematics score was 286, while the national average was 283. In mathematics, North Carolina's average score is considered to be statistically higher than the national scores, according to NCES.

In the recent years of NAEP, North Carolina students have shown steady improvement in mathematics. Reading performance has experienced more fluctuations.

Compared to other states, North Carolina's average fourth grade mathematics score was higher than 30 other states or jurisdictions, lower than 6 others and in the same performance category as 15 other states or jurisdictions. Eighth grade mathematics scores placed North Carolina lower than 11 other states or jurisdictions, higher than 26 others and the same as 14 others.

On reading, North Carolina fourth graders were lower than 13 states or jurisdictions, higher than 15 states or jurisdictions and not significantly different from 23 others. In eighth grade, North Carolina's reading scores placed the state below 27 other states and jurisdictions, higher than 11 states or jurisdictions and the same as 13 others.

In addition to providing the average scores for each grade and subject, the NAEP performance also is reported by the percentage of students scoring in three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. In fourth grade mathematics, North Carolina has 44 percent of fourth graders scoring at the Basic level; 38 percent at Proficient and 7 percent at Advanced. When the state began participating in NAEP in 1992, approximately half of all fourth graders were below Basic in mathematics. In 2011, 12 percent of North Carolina fourth graders scored below Basic. The percentages scoring in each category have fluctuated from one testing year to the next, but the trend in fourth grade mathematics is toward having more students at Basic or above.

At the fourth grade level in mathematics, the nation has 18 percent below Basic; 42 percent at Basic, 33 percent at Proficient and 6 percent at Advanced.

For eighth grade mathematics, North Carolina has 38 percent of its students at Basic; 27 percent at Proficient; and 10 percent at Advanced. Nationally, those numbers are 39 percent at Basic, 26 percent Proficient and 8 percent Advanced. When North Carolina began participating in the NAEP mathematics assessment in 1990, 62 percent of students were scoring below the Basic level. This has declined to 25 percent.

In reading, North Carolina's scores and the nation's scores have remained more consistent. In 2011, North Carolina posted 34 percent of its fourth grade students at Basic, 26 percent at Proficient and 8 percent at Advanced. Nationally, the averages in fourth grade reading were 34 percent at Basic, 25 percent at Proficient and 7 percent at Advanced. In 1992 when the NAEP began assessing reading, North Carolina's average score was significantly lower and the percentage of students who were below Basic was 44 percent versus 32 percent in 2011, significantly.

For eighth grade reading, North Carolina scores showed 43 percent of students at the Basic level, 28 percent at Proficient and 3 percent Advanced. The nation's numbers were 43 percent at Basic, 29 percent at Proficient and 3 percent Advanced. In 1998 when eighth grade reading was first measured by the NAEP, North Carolina had 24 percent of students below Basic. In 2011 that number was 26 percent.

NAEP is given in reading and mathematics every other year. The NAEP assesses reading in both literary and informational texts. The assessments are given to a representative sample of North Carolina students selected by the NCES as representative of the state.

The NAEP assesses mathematics in five content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics, and probability; and algebra.

NAEP results for the nation reflect the performance of students attending public schools (including charter schools), private schools, the Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. Only national and state-level data are available because the NAEP is given to a sample of students in each state. The NAEP assessments are conducted in reading, mathematics, science, writing, civics, economics, geography, US history and the arts. Reading and mathematics are the two subjects assessed every two years with state-level results reported.

Comparisons between North Carolina students and the nation are made using public school scores only.

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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 160 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.