Every other year, 4th and 8th grade students across the nation take National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. Because the same test is given to all students, NAEP scores serve as a common measuring tool to gauge every state’s progress in reading, math, and other subjects. On Nov. 1, NAEP released last year’s scores in its biannual publication, The Nation’s Report Card. How did Alabama score?
Alabama Report Card Highlights
Alabama leads the nation in 4th grade reading gains. Alabama’s 4th grade reading scores increased again this year, and placed Alabama first in the nation in reading score improvement since 2003. Alabama also ranked first in the nation in gains among African American and low income students between 2009 and 2011. Thanks to these improvements, Alabama’s reading scores met the national average for the first time ever in 2011.
Alabama’s 4th grade math scores also improved. Alabama was one of only nine states nationwide to show significant improvements in 4th grade math since the last test. Alabama ranked second in the nation in math score gains from 2009 to 2011.
Alabama’s 8th grade reading and math scores show little improvement. Despite the great improvements in 4th grade scores, Alabama’s 8th grade scores remain relatively stagnant. The state showed no improvement in 8th grade math since 2009. In reading, Alabama showed a small, but not statistically significant, improvement in scores. In both subjects, the state lags far behind the national average, and significant achievement gaps exist between white and black students as well as poverty and nonpoverty students.
For a more detailed look at the scores, check out the NAEP State Profile Map for Alabama.
The Takeaway: What the Scores Teach Us About Education in Alabama
The Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) works.
With teacher training, onsite support, and reading coaches at over 1,000 schools, the Alabama Reading Initiative helps all of Alabama’s students improve their reading skills. Alabama’s greatest reading gains occurred after ARI was implemented in every school in 2004. This year’s 4th grade scores are another testament to the lasting success of the initiative. Click here to read more about ARI.
We should expand AMSTI to promote high achievement in math.
Like with reading, Alabama can experience significant gains in student math scores. The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) helps teachers across the state teach math effectively at all grades and skill levels. Right now, only 40% of schools participate in AMSTI. We believe that, like ARI, AMSTI would boost state scores if the program were expanded to more schools across the state.
We still need to do more for African American and low-income students.
The learning gap between black and white students, and between poor and wealthier students, continues to be unacceptably high. Even though Alabama’s African American and low-income students made significant gains since 2009, these subgroups still preform far below their white, middle-income counterparts. In 2011, a low-income student was more than twice as likely as a middle-income student to score in NAEP’s lowest achievement group, “below basic.”
We believe that every child can excel academically. Many systems across the state have set a goal to have all students – regardless of their parent’s income or ethnicity – reading at grade level or above. These systems have made great strides towards reducing the achievement gap between their students, and we believe that more school systems should adopt similarly high expectations.
For another take on Alabama’s NAEP scores, check out this article from the Birmingham News.