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National education report card shows mixed results for Oklahoma

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Oklahoma fourth and eighth graders produced similar or worse results in reading and math compared to 2017 scores, a national education assessment shows.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, found average scores in Oklahoma consistently fell below national public-school averages.

Both the national average and Oklahoma’s average scores for eighth-grade reading dropped by three points, according to the report, which was released Wednesday.

This decrease was considered statistically significant by the National Center for Education Statistics, who administers the math and reading assessments that make up the report card. The NCES releases the report every two years and calculates scores on a 500-point scale.

About 8,900 Oklahoma students in about 190 districts were tested between January and March, the Oklahoma State Department of Education reported.

Only 26% of Oklahoma eighth graders scored at or above proficiency in reading. Similarly, 26% reached or exceeded proficiency in math.

The state’s eighth-grade reading average fell from 261 to 258 while the national average also decreased from 265 to 262.

While their reading scores fell, Oklahoma eighth graders raised their average math score by a point, from 275 to 276. The national average in this category dropped from 283 to 282.

“We are encouraged to see improvement in eighth-grade math scores after strengthening our academic standards,” State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement. “Oklahoma students can compete academically with other students in the nation, but we have more ground to gain.”

In August, a NAEP mapping study found Oklahoma had significantly raised its standards for student proficiency in math and reading. Evaluators graded Oklahoma among the top states in strong expectations for eighth-grade math.

The 2019 report card found fourth-grade reading scores had no significant statistical change in Oklahoma when they decreased from 217 to 216. At the same time, the national fourth-grade average fell from 221 to 219.

With a score of 237, fourth graders in Oklahoma produced the same math average in 2017 and 2019. In that amount of time, the national average increased from 239 to 240.

Only 35% of fourth graders in the state met or exceeded NAEP’s standard for proficiency in math. Only 29% were considered at or above proficiency in reading.

The NAEP findings for Oklahoma appear to follow national trends, particularly with the three-point decrease in eighth-grade reading scores. Oklahoma was one of 31 states that saw decreases in this category.

Only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, increased its eighth-grade reading average.

The assessment found only 36% of eighth graders across the country said they “definitely can” explain the meaning of something they just read. Only 36% of fourth graders gave the same answer.

Oklahoma’s Legislature fully funded the Reading Sufficiency Act for the first time in the 2019-20 school year, dedicating $150 per student to focus on literacy in kindergarten through third grade.

Many classrooms across Oklahoma are still using discredited strategies to teach reading, some of which could make it more difficult for students to learn to read, Hofmeister said. The Oklahoma State Department of Education is encouraging teachers to be well-informed on the science of reading.

“However, the conversation must be about more than just early literacy if we are serious about lifting academic outcomes for all students,” Hofmeister said. “It is imperative that we thoroughly teach our new academic standards, strategically invest in mentoring new teachers and support kids with deep learning challenges. There are no shortcuts to success.”

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›

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