The 2017 results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) were released by the National Center for Educational Statistics last week, and they show that while Iowa students performed better than the national average, their statewide average scores remain stagnant and 4th-graders saw a two-point drop in reading from 2015.

Let’s look at each assessment.

4th-Grade Mathematics

Iowa is the top trendline; the national trendline is below.

Iowa’s 4th-graders average scores on the NAEP mathematics assessment have been stagnant since 2007 at 243 with the exception of a three-point bump in 2013.

46 percent of Iowa’s 4th graders scored at or above the NAEP proficient level (249), that is two percent more than in 2015, but still two percent less than in 2013.

The achievement gap between white students and black students has doubled since 2000. In 2017, black students had an average score 32 points lower than white students. In 2000, it was 16 points lower. The gap widened by six points since 2015. Hispanic students in 2017 had an average score 16 points lower than white 4th-graders. The gap closed by five points as there was a 21 point gap between Hispanic students and white students in 2015.

In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 24 points lower than that for students who were not eligible. This performance gap was wider than that in 2000 (14 points) and 2015 (21 points).

In 2017, boys had an average score four points higher than girls. In 2015, the boys’ average score was only one point above the girls’.

4th-Grade Reading

Iowa is the top trendline; the national trendline is below.

Iowa’s 4th-graders saw a two-point decline in their average reading assessment score of 224 in 2013 and 2015. Their top average score came in 1992 and 2007 at 225. Reading average scores have been between 220 and 225 since 1992.  Looking at the trendline, we can see the gap between Iowa and 4th-graders nationally has closed.

Only 36 percent of Iowa’s 4th-graders scored at or beyond the NAEP proficient level of 238. This is a decline from 38 percent in 2013 and 2015.

Iowa has expanded the gap between black 4th-graders and white 4th-graders by one percent since 2015. In 2017, black students had an average score that was 39 points lower than that for white students compared to a 38 point gap in 2015. In 1998, black students had an average score of 31 percent lower than white students.

In 2017, Hispanic students had an average score that was 22 points lower than that for white students; the gap had grown by four points since 2015 when Hispanic students had an average score that was 18 points lower than that of white students.

In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch had an average score that was 28 points lower than that for students who were not eligible. In 2015, it was 24 points lower.

In 2017, female 4th graders had an average score of six points above what male 4th-graders scored. In 2015, girls had an average score of five points above boys.

8th-Grade Math

Iowa’s trend line is above the national trend line.

Iowa’s 8th-grader’s average score of 286 in 2017 has not changed since 2015 and has been relatively stagnant since 1992 while nationally, 8th-grade average scores had climbed until 2015 when they saw a two-point drop compared to 2013.

The percentage of students in Iowa who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level (299) was 37 percent in 2017. This percentage was not different from that in 2015 (37 percent) and was higher than that in 2003 (33 percent).

The gap between black 8th-graders and white 8th-graders in math has closed some in 2017 compared to 2015. In 2017, black students had an average score that was 34 points lower than that for white students. In 2015, there was a 37 point difference. It is, however, higher than the difference in 2003 when black students had an average score of 30 points lower than that of white students.

In 2017, Hispanic students had an average score that was 16 points lower than that for white students. This performance gap was narrower than that in 2003 (32 points) and 2015 (21 points).

In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch had an average score that was 26 points lower than that for students who were not eligible. This performance gap than in 2003 (24 points), but is the same compared to 2015 (26 points).

In 2017, female students had an average score that was one point high than male students. Thi is is a shift because, in 2015, female students had an average score two points lower than male students.

8th-Grade Reading

Iowa’s trend line is above the national trend line.

Iowa’s 8th-graders have seen little change in their reading assessments since they started taking the NAEP in 2003. The largest change came between 2011 and 2013 when the average score jumped four points from 265 to 269. The 2017 average score is the same as it was in 2015 – 268, a one-point drop from 2013.

The percentage of students in Iowa who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level (281) was 37 percent in 2017. This percentage was slightly higher than in 2003 (36 percent) and 2015 (36 percent).

In 2017, black students had an average score that was 28 points lower than that for white students. This performance gap was greater from that in 2003 (25 points) and 2015 (26 points).

In 2017, Hispanic students had an average score that was 12 points lower than that for white students. This performance gap was narrower than that in 2003 (25 points) and 2015 (15 points).

In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch had an average score that was 24 points lower than that for students who were not eligible. This performance gap is greater than in 2003 (21 points) and 2015 (20 points).

In 2017, female students in Iowa had an average score that was higher than that for male students by 11 points. This performance gap was narrower than that in 2003 (12 points) but greater than in 2015 (6 points).

Conclusion:

In 2008, Iowa made expanded its state standards from high school to K-12 and made their implementation mandatory. In 2010, Iowa adopted the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English and literature arts replacing their previous standards. There is no evidence they have made much of a difference in the state’s average NAEP scores.

What we’ve seen, however, is a growth in the performance gap between white and black students across the board. We’ve also seen growth in the performance gap between students who qualify for free and reduced lunches compared to those who don’t. The good news is that the performance gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed with the exception being in 4th-grade reading.

I also have to wonder if Governor’s initiative in promoting STEM among girls in the state is having an impact as 8th-grade girls outperformed boys in math, but we really can’t definitively say based on one year. Also if it has made an impact we only see it with older students as 4th-grade boys still outperform girls in math.

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