NAEP 2019: A Common Measure for Performance


Missouri has room to improve

The 2019 NAEP results are in and we can take a look at how Missouri performed compared to our neighbors and the nation. Click here to view our PRiME NAEP 2019 Policy Brief hot off the presses. If you just want a quick summary version of what happened between the 2017 and 2019 editions of the NAEP, here are our takeaways:

1) Missouri’s proficiency rates fell below the national average.

While these differences from the national average are not statistically significant, it’s rarely good to fall below average. Missouri’s 4th grade students are in the bottom half in both reading and math. Our scores in 8th grade reading are slightly above the national average as other states seem to have struggled more than Missouri this time around.


2) Scores were pretty flat in math.

NAEP results in math have plateaued for both 4th and 8th graders. Missouri’s 8th graders have scored at the same level for the past three NAEP tests, while 4th graders have fallen a bit. This was not unique to Missouri, as national trends took a tumble as well. Missouri’s 4th graders, however, lost more than the nation did on average.

3) What happened in reading?

Missouri’s 8th grade reading scores dropped to their lowest level since the 2007 level. Reading scores for our 4th graders are even more concerning, as our scale score dropped 5 points compared to the last NAEP cycle. In fact, this is the lowest Missouri’s 4th graders have scored since 1998. More concerning? This drop was statistically significant compared to our 2017 performance.


4) Student subgroups in Missouri are each being outpaced by their peers nationwide.

In 2019, and in most previous administrations of NAEP, White and Black students in Missouri performed worse than their peers nationwide. For example, as the figure below shows, 4th grade White students in Missouri have earned lower scores in math than their national peers in each testing year since 2003; the same is true for 4th grade Black students in Missouri. In 2019, scores for White and Black students stayed the same or dropped in math and reading in both 4th grade and 8th grade, with one exception: Black students saw a two point increase in 8th grade math.

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5) Achievement gaps connected to poverty level are growing slightly, due mostly to decreasing scores.

In 4th grade reading, FRL-eligible students dropped four points compared to a two point drop for non-FRL students. In 8th grade, the gap between FRL-eligible and FRL-ineligible students grew by three points in math and by one point in reading. One exception to these trends is that the gap in 4th grade math closed slightly in the most recent year due to FRL-eligible students improving by two scale score points and FRL-ineligible students losing one point.


Overall, Missouri’s NAEP scores across subjects and grade levels tracked with National trends. Math remained relatively flat, while reading scores fell. The biggest hit Missouri took was in 4th grade reading, where students scored five points worse at a statistically significant level. These results and the persistent gaps in achievement for student groups show there is work to do across the state to ensure all students are being prepared.

Given that we cannot compare the results of state-designed assessments (or even the recently released ACT results) across the country, the NAEP provides an opportunity to do so and helps to understand how Missouri’s students are performing in comparison to their peers. Additionally, it allows us to compare the magnitude of differences in achievement for various groups of students, including White and Black students and FRL-eligible and FRL-ineligible students. The next iteration of NAEP occurs in 2021, at which point we will look again at how Missouri performs compared to our neighbors and the rest of the nation.


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