Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores dropped from 2017 to 2019, while math scores improved slightly or stayed the same, according to a national report released Wednesday.
The latest state results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress — also called The Nation’s Report Card — mostly align with national trends. But they also show Oklahoma students continue to lag behind the rest of the country.
NAEP is administered to a sample of students from each state by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Reading and math are tested every two years at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels.
In Oklahoma, about 8,900 students attending 250 schools in about 190 districts took the math and reading NAEP tests in 2019. Scores are reported on a 500-point scale to measure achievement level.
Oklahoma fourth-graders scored an average of 216 on the reading assessment — one point lower than in 2017 and three points lower than the national average. Eighth-graders averaged a 258 in reading, compared to 261 in 2017 and 262 nationwide.
The average math score for Oklahoma fourth-grade students remained the same from 2017 at 237, while the national average increased from 239 to 240.
Eighth-grade math is the only category in which Oklahoma defied the national trend. The state average increased from 275 to 276 and the national average decreased from 282 to 281.
“We are encouraged to see improvement in eighth-grade math scores after strengthening our academic standards,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma students can compete academically with other students in the nation, but we have more ground to gain.”
Oklahoma’s average score in each category meets the basic achievement level, falling well below the threshold for proficient.
According to the report, 35% of Oklahoma fourth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared to 40% in the nation’s public schools. Only 26% of Oklahoma eighth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared to a national average of 33%.
In fourth-grade reading, 29% of Oklahoma students and 34% of students nationwide scored at or above proficient. In eighth-grade reading, 26% of Oklahoma students and 32% of U.S. students scored at or above proficient.
National declines in reading at both grades were seen at all levels of achievement, whether students were high- or low-performing, said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the national Center for Education Statistics.
By contrast, score declines for lower-performing students drove the overall decline in eighth-grade math.
“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” Carr said. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students — those who struggle the most — have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”
Carr also noted eighth-graders’ performance declined in reading and math. She called the grade a transitional point in preparing students to succeed in high school and said it’s critical that researchers further explore the declines so they can be reversed.
Oklahoma fourth-and-eighth-grade scores by the numbers
|Grade 4 math|
|Grade 8 math|
|Grade 4 reading|
|Grade 8 reading|
Source: The National Report Card