National and International Assessments Provide
Another Lens for NC Student Performance

November 19, 2013

When the 2012-13 READY Accountability report was released in early November, we confirmed that student performance on statewide end-of- grade and end-of-course tests was not where we want it to be. We knew a drop in scores was coming since 2012-13 was North Carolina's first year with more rigorous learning standards and assessments. We were not surprised by the results and we expect scores to improve, as they have in other states that moved to tougher standards, as early as next year.

On the same day this state report was released, the 2013 National Assessment on Education Progress (NAEP) scores also were announced. These assessments are often referred to as the nation's report card and help us to compare our students' performance with scores from other states. The NAEP assessments in math, science and reading are given to North Carolina students every other year and are often considered to be more challenging then state tests. In 2013, our students took NAEP tests in math and reading and their scores continue to be at or above the national average. Again, we expect these scores to increase once our students and teachers have another year or two of the new standards and assessments under their belts. Tennessee, for example, made the most growth of any state on the NAEP between the 2011 and 2013 assessments and they also were among the early adopters of the Common Core State Standards.

North Carolina also participates in the Trends in International Math and Science Study or TIMMS. We were one of nine U.S. states and more than 45 other education systems from across the world to participate in this study in 2011 and we received some very encouraging results from this report. It turns out that North Carolina was the only participating state in the country and one of only eight education systems across the world in which fourth grade math students outscored the test average and U.S. national average on the TIMSS. At the eighth grade level, North Carolina was among only 11 states and countries to score higher than both the TIMSS scale and national averages.

To add more value to these results, last year, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted a study in which 8th grade math and science scores from the 2011 NAEP were used to predict TIMMS scores for the 43 U.S. states that did not participate in the TIMMS in 2011. When the results of this NAEP-TIMMS linking study were released last month, we were elated to see that in math, only five of international education systems and five states (out of 50) scored higher than North Carolina and our state came in ahead of Finland, which is often recognized as an international leader in education innovation. In science, only six education systems scored higher than North Carolina. In both subjects, North Carolina's scores exceed the TIMSS and U.S. averages.

North Carolina students' scores on state end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments are important and we know there is more work to do in order to move our students up from the baseline results we saw for the 2012-13 school year. Yet these state results are some of the many things we should look at to gauge how well schools are preparing students to compete in a global economy. National assessments such as the NAEP and international assessments such as TIMMS also give us a good idea of how students in our state are performing compared to those in other states and countries. And when I look at results from these assessments, I am encouraged to see that North Carolina in turning in solid scores, and in some cases coming in near the head of the pack, especially in math. That is good news for our students and our state and is certainly an achievement worth celebrating.

June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent