NAEP Results: What do these numbers and rankings really tell us?

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NAEP Results and What They Mean

Every two years, the National Center for Education Statistics administers the NAEP to a representative sample of students in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and Puerto Rico. The most recent iteration occurred in 2017, with results released last April. A sample of Missouri’s are currently taking the NAEP, with results coming in the spring of 2020.

The purpose of the NAEP is to allow for a comparison of student achievement across states, something we cannot do by comparing the results of each state’s own assessment. For the most part, NAEP results nationally and in Missouri have stayed pretty flat. While the NAEP seems pretty straightforward, the results are extremely nuanced and are likely being misused and misrepresented. The SLU PRiME center dug into the results over the past several years and we’re happy to share what we’ve found. You can read more about Missouri’s NAEP results in today’s policy brief!

Missouri’s NAEP Scores in Context: Missouri’s NAEP scores have been relatively unchanged since our peak in 2009. But, Missouri’s 2017 results have exceeded the National average on 3 of the 4 exams. Hopefully we see this trend continue in 2020!

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Missouri’s 4th Grade Results: Missouri’s 4th graders are outpacing the border states (Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) in both Math and Reading. This great news as we were behind in Math in both 2013 and 2015!

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Missouri’s 8th Graders: Math scores for 8th graders have been just below the National average every year except 2009. We are typically on par with the border states in Math. On the other hand, we’ve outpaced the nation and border states in reading in almost every year except 2013. Let’s hope some of the Reading skills can start to transfer to Math as well.

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8th Grade Reading Achievement Gaps: Missouri’s 8th grade Reading achievement gap widened in 2017, as Black students’ average scores decreased and White students scores increased. This score gap is also wider than the national trends. For our students in poverty (as measured by Free/Reduced-Price Lunch eligibility), the gap widened, but we are still doing better than national trends. You can see more on the achievement gaps in our policy brief

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National Rankings: Because NAEP gives us a common metric for achievement, states are ranked on their performance. While this sounds like a great way to really dig into where Missouri stands nationally, the rankings are very meh. Missouri ranks 26th and 28th in 4th grade Math and 8th grade Reading, respectively, which is middle of the pack. Even though the percentage of students in Missouri meeting the Proficient/Advanced benchmark is ranked higher than the National average, we can see that we have the exact percentage as the National results. So, what gives? Well, NAEP is quick to point out that these differences are not statistically significant, meaning this difference may actually just be random chance. In fact, if we look at the overall results, only 16 of the 53 jurisdictions performed significantly higher than the national average.

Overall, Missouri’s NAEP results mirror National trends, as neither have changed much over the years. However, we’re doing better than our neighbors overall, and, in many cases, we have achievement gaps that are smaller than National trends. Hopefully, the new, more rigorous learning standards make a difference for Missouri students. We’ll be sure to look at the 2019 NAEP results when they’re available and how Missouri performed.

Meanwhile, if you want to know more about Missouri’s students and schools, you can read our Missouri Education Profile and be on the lookout for our regional profiles coming soon!


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Evan RhinesmithComment