National test scores see big drop after COVID, but La. reports improvements

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley has released the state’s scores in the National Assessment of Education Progress results.

NAEP, or the Nation’s Report Card, conducts biennial reading and math assessments for fourth- and eighth-graders. Brumley said this is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of students’ reading and math skills nationwide.

Early projections show that Louisiana’s overall NAEP national ranking will increase from 49th in 2019 to 43th in 2022. Brumley said this ranking is based on information that is still new to the Louisiana Department of Education.

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“These are early projections because we have only recently received this information.”

Ted Beasley, executive director of Public Affairs for the LDE, confirmed there could be slight changes in the overall national ranking after further analysis of the data.

On a national scale, Louisiana fared well in subcategories, placing top 10 in all four categories for both average scale score and percentage of students at or above proficient.

From 2019 to 2022, Louisiana’s average scale score for fourth grade reading increased by 2 points, ranking

the state first in grade 4 reading growth. On average, states exhibited a 3 point decrease in reading growth. Eighth grade reading scores showed no change, placing Louisiana fifth in the national growth rank.

Brumley said the improvements in fourth grade reading growth are “one of the most significant data points,” he had the opportunity to present.

“I think it’s important that we spread the news that in a state that has been challenged, specifically around literacy, that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “We have led the entire country in growth in fourth grade reading, and that is a testament to the hard work taking place in schools across this great state.”

Grade 4 reading indicated a 2 percent increase in students scoring at or above proficient. This increase placed Louisiana first in national growth rank in this category. Grade 8 reading showed no change, ranking Louisiana fourth nationally.

The national overall ranking of Grade 4 reading is projected to increase from 50th to 43rd, while the Grade 8 reading is projected to increase from 45th to 39th.

Louisiana math scores decreased. Grade 4 math scores dropped by 3 points, while Grade 8 math scores decreased by 6. Despite the decrease in math average scale scores, Louisiana still placed fifth and ninth respectively on a national level.

There was a 2 percent decrease in fourth grade math students scoring at or above proficient. Louisiana ranked 10th nationally in this category. Eighth-grade math students indicated no change, placing Louisiana seventh nationally.

Eighth grade math scores were hit the hardest across all states, according to Brumley.

“We did not fall as much as the national average, but certainly we did see a decline there,” he said. “This is an area that for some time has been problematic.”

He said research is being done to pinpoint reasons for the decline.

“More information from our agency will certainly be forthcoming, because in the same way that we’re seeing such growth in fourth grade reading, we want to see that across the board.”

Despite drops in subcategory scores, overall national rankings for grades 4 and 8 math are projected to increase. Grade 4 math will move up from 50th to 42nd, and Grade 8 math will rank up from 49th to 45th.

Brumley attributes Louisiana’s education improvements to the Louisiana Comeback initiative.

“One of the things that I think has been important, over the last year certainly, has been our request of every school system across the state to develop a Comeback plan.”

Through the initiative, Louisiana schools were required to develop plans that directly targeted areas like attendance and well-being, professional learning and academic recovery and acceleration.

For Brumley, the results of the NAEP assessments are an indication of recovery.

“Our initial thought is that our recovery strategy is working, particularly around the area of literacy,” he said. “To be No. 1 in literacy growth, that’s impressive.”

“Our outcomes across the state of Louisiana, for a long time, haven’t been what we want them to be; however, I think that this is a signal that our recovery strategy is working.”

Shannon LaFargue, Calcasieu Parish School Board superintendent, agrees the results are a sign of progression.

“The indication that Louisiana’s fourth grade NAEP reading scores grew two points is an affirmation that we are moving in the right direction,” he said. “The LDOE initiatives of teaching the science of reading and the addition of literacy coaches in our schools that are in need of intervention are obviously working. Although Louisiana’s math scores did not see an increase, we fared better than the national average.”

This is the first NAEP release in 3 years. In 2019, assessments were suspended due to COVID-19 concerns. The 2022 assessments were conducted on a national level from January 2022 to March 2022.