Indiana students made strides in both reading and math and outscored their peers on a test administered across the country.
Results from the National Assessment of Education Progress, also called The Nation’s Report Card, were released Tuesday showing Indiana students scored above the national average in both reading and math and made gains since students were tested two years ago. While math scores have steadily increased for the past 15 years, reading scores have remained stagnant, getting back to where they were five years ago after a dip in 2005.
The national test is given to fourth- and eighth-grade students in all 50 states every two years. More than 110 Indiana schools participated in the test, which was administered to 3,100 Hoosier fourth-graders and 2,600 eighth-graders.
The schools that participated were not released and the report only lists statewide data.
“We’re pleased to see that Indiana remains above the national average, and that our scores improved across the board in both reading and math since the tests were given two years ago,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed said in a written statement. “While there’s certainly room for improvement, it is encouraging to see our scores moving in the right direction.”
Statewide, 46 percent of fourth-graders performed at the highest levels in math, compared with the national average of 38 percent. In eighth grade, 35 percent achieved the highest levels, compared with 31 percent nationally.
In reading, 33 percent of fourth-graders passed the highest levels, compared with 31 percent across the country. In eighth grade, 31 percent performed at the high marks, compared with the national average of 29 percent.
Indiana now ranks seventh in the nation for fourth-graders’ math scores, up from 21st place two years ago. The state ranks 17th in eighth-grade math – the same standing it held in 2005.
The Hoosier state ranks 27th in fourth-grade reading, up from 31st place, and 25th in eighth-grade reading, up from 30th place in 2005.
While Indiana students made gains overall in the test scores, they did little to narrow the achievement gap among ethnic groups from two years ago. The achievement gap between low-income students also remained unchanged from 2005.
Closing the achievement gap becomes harder when students start performing better, said Peter Kloosterman, professor of mathematics education at Indiana University. To lower the gap, upper-income students must stop making gains or low-income students must progress faster, he said.
“It’s important to close those gaps, but we have to change schools and society in a number of things that just move slowly,” Kloosterman said.
The improved math scores can be attributed to a revised curriculum more focused on critical thinking, problem solving and applied mathematics, he said. Reading scores are harder to raise because it takes more outside influences than what goes on in the school building to get students to hit the books, Kloosterman said.
Overall, Indiana parents should be encouraged by Hoosier students’ performance on The Nation’s Report Card, he said.
“The fact that Indiana is above the national average and is good or better than anybody around us is indicating our schools are doing a good job,” Kloosterman said.