Reading, math scores low in Georgia

Georgia ranks at or near the bottom in four testing proficiency standards compared to other states and the District of Columbia, a study released today by the National Center for Education Statistics shows.

The study, “Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Results From the 2013 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Assessments,” uses a formula to compare what states define as proficient in math and reading, then maps those scores on its own scale in measuring progress.

Georgia came in dead last in the rigor of its reading proficiency standards in both fourth and eighth grades, and near last in math.

Known as “the nation’s report card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress has for years sought to create an apples-to-apples comparison by state of learning standards for math and writing skills.

The measurement is important because a lack of student preparedness for college or jobs costs billions annually and makes filling jobs harder, according to a statement released by the National Association of System Heads, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and Higher Ed for Higher Standards. The groups mention that half of first-year students at two-year colleges and a fifth of students entering four-year institutions require some remediation before they begin course work.

“We used NAEP to determine rigor, or relative rigor, in proficiency … to assess a section of students across the country using common benchmarks,” said Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the NCES.

NAEPstandards are very tough to score well in, and critics caution against making too much of the complex formula.

In fourth-grade reading, Georgia is one of 26 states that rated below basic on the NAEP scale.

Georgia’s 4th-graders got a 2013 math score of 210 on a 0-to-500 scale. The national average score was 229. Georgia’s 4th-grade reading score was 167, while the U.S. average was 205.

Eighth-graders in Georgia got a math score of 245, below the U.S. score of 274. And the 8th-grade reading score was 199, below the U.S. score of 249.

The NAEP scores support the notion that Georgia’s public schools produce students who test near the bottom of national averages.

High school graduation rates in Georgia lag the national average by about 10 points, and Georgia SAT scores last fall were 52 points lower than the average U.S. score.

States have been making slow gains in adjusting to NAEP’s tougher standards. Carr said state standards often are near NAEP’s “basic” level. Efforts to reach officials from the Georgia Department of Education were unsuccessful.

The most recent NAEP results do not reflect any changes to proficiency standards in Georgia since the 2012-2013 school year.

The number of states meeting NAEP’s basic standards has increased. In reading standards, the number of schools reaching the NAEP basic level increased from 15 in 2009 to 25 in 2013 for fourth-grade reading, and 35 in 2009 to 41 in 2013 for eighth-grade reading.

In mathematics, the number of states at least meeting the NAEP basic level increased for fourth-grade standards, going from 44 to 47 between 2009 to 2013. For eighth grade, the number increased from 39 in 2009 to 41 in 2013.

“The need for higher standards is clear,” the statement from the educator groups says. “The preparation gap is large and persistent. It puts our students at risk and it threatens the health of our economy. Setting higher expectations for student learning is absolutely necessary if we are to close these gaps that now leave our young people at such a competitive disadvantage.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement that upward movement by some states, as seen in the study, should be applauded.

“Coupled with the fact that more than 40 states are moving forward with new, higher academic standards that the states themselves developed, this is encouraging news for parents and students,” he said. “The report is also a reminder that much work remains.”

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