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Making Progress In Math

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New Mexico was one of just four states or jurisdictions that made statistically significant progress in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

While New Mexico remained near the bottom of the 2011 rankings, the improved scores were for both eighth- and fourth-graders. Reading scores for both grade levels were flat.

The NAEP test is taken by a sample of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Some consider it more comparable than state test data because students across the nation take the same test.

The rankings do not account for demographic factors like a state’s levels of poverty or percentage of students with disabilities or learning English.

State Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera said the results are mixed.

“These results are both encouraging and frustrating,” Skandera said. “The high bar we’ve set for our students in math is starting to pay off, but we continue to fail our children by telling them to wait before we’ll teach them how to read.”

New Mexico’s fourth-graders had an average math score of 233 on the NAEP math test, up from 230 when the test was last taken in 2009. Eighth-graders had an average score of 274, up from 270 in 2009.

The state’s growth in math scores outpaced the national average, which inched up one point for both grade levels. But the progress still leaves New Mexico well below the national average.

The state’s average fourth-grade math score was higher than two jurisdictions, and statistically the same as six others. The eighth-grade average is better than three jurisdictions, and statistically the same as four more.

The New Mexico scores in both math and reading show that achievement gaps between Anglo students and Hispanic students and between poor and non-poor students did not narrow in the past two years.

The average fourth-grade reading score was stagnant both in New Mexico and nationally. The national average for eighth-grade increased by one point. New Mexico’s average eighth-grade reading score increased by two points, but was not statistically significant for the state sample size.

New Mexico’s average reading scores for both grade levels were higher than just Washington, D.C. The fourth-grade score was the same as four other states, and the eighth-grade score was the same as seven other states.

Nationally, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the increases were too minor to celebrate.

“The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism,” Duncan said in a written statement. “While student achievement is up since 2009 in both grades in mathematics and in eighth-grade reading, it’s clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation’s children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.”

He pointed out that historically, NAEP scores had a significant upward trajectory in the 1990s and have leveled off in the past decade.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal

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