MONTPELIER — The decline continues.
According to the federal Agency of Education, Vermont is among most states that saw little to no improvement on math and reading scores. But overall, Vermont fares well when compared to other states in fourth- and eighth-grade education.
Ted Fisher, director of communications and legislative affairs at the Agency of Education, said the statewide average in the federal agency’s National Assessment of Educational Progress can’t be broken down on a district-by-district basis, but the results still put Vermont students above the national average for reading in fourth and eighth grade and mathematics in eighth grade.
“This is obviously a trend,” Fisher said. “Across the board, we’ve seen scores go down. … (This test) is a barometer.”
Fisher said the findings of the report, released Wednesday, cannot be tied to any particular influences, but that it represents a need to continue reevaluating the educational systems in place in order to draw up a blueprint for the future of Vermont’s educational systems. He said recommendations will be made to districts after the recent findings have been thoroughly analyzed.
“While the NAEP results are a useful barometer — they help us understand what’s happening — we shouldn’t use the data to leap to conclusions about why we see the trends that we do,” Wendy Geller, director of the Data Management and Analysis Division at the Vermont Agency of Education, said in a news release. “They are a signpost for us to dig deeper, not an answer or an indication of a cause and effect relationship.”
“This is what we all own as Vermonters,” Fisher said.
Grade four students scored below the national average in mathematics, and scored lower overall in 2019 compared to previous scores gathered in 2017, even though the Green Mountain State appears to be generating generally stable or positive numbers compared to other states nationwide with the exception of Grade 4 mathematics.
Despite lower math scores, Vermont students ranked better in algebra and measurement, and scores rose among the 90th percentile in geometry and measurements among eighth graders. The survey noted students scored the same in algebra and operations as they did in their previous assessment.
Eighth-grade readers scored lower in “literacy experience” than they did in the “gaining information” category. The report also included that Vermont schools that hosted mathematics competitions ended up with higher in eighth-grade mathematics scores in 2019, as did schools that had math clubs or chess clubs.
Ironically, schools that offered “Family Math Nights” ended up with lower scores than those that did not, according to the report.
“This year’s NAEP scores paint a concerning picture for Vermont,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “Many of these metrics have been declining for years now, and while Vermont students are still performing above the national average, we clearly have more to do as a state to ensure our students are prepared for success.”
Vermont’s Grade 4 reading scores ranked it among 17 other states with scores performing higher than the national public average, far above the jurisdictions of California, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, which each scored “significantly lower than the national public.”
Vermont’s Grade 4 math scores were rated as “not significantly different than national public,” ranking them one of 20 jurisdictions that scored lower than jurisdictions in Virginia, Texas and Florida, but higher than California, Oregon and New York.
Average Grade 8 math scores in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were among those that performed “significantly higher than the national average,” while Kentucky, West Virginia and California were three of the 16 jurisdictions that scored “significantly lower.”
To round it off, Grade 8 reading scores from Vermont in 2019 were also rated as “significantly higher” than the national average, and writing scores in fourth grade from 2002 were rated as “significantly higher” than the national average, as were fourth grade science scores from 2015.
Science scores from eighth grade in 2015 were rated as “significantly higher” than the national averages, as were eighth grade writing scores from 2007, according to the report.
“We will be taking a deeper look at the NAEP data along with Smarter Balanced data to determine if trends can be identified and patterns established,” Deputy Secretary Heather Bouchey said in a news release. “It’s important that we work together and do everything we can to ensure the success of Vermont students.”
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