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Virginia 4th Graders Among Nation's Best Readers

Press Release

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Location: Richmond, VA

Results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that the reading skills of Virginia fourth-grade students have improved significantly over the last four years, Governor Bob McDonnell reported today.

Virginia is one of the nation's 12 highest-performing states in fourth-grade reading. These states have what the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) views as statistically similar percentages of fourth graders earning proficient or advanced scores.

"Developing a strong literacy foundation is imperative to a child's success in school," said Governor McDonnell. "In 2012, we passed legislation to end social promotion in order to ensure that all students are reading on grade level prior to moving on to fourth grade. We have seen great improvement in reading scores over the last four years. As more students are impacted by the strategies implemented in our third grade reading program we expect we will see even greater success."

Forty-three percent of the commonwealth's grade-4 students met or exceeded the NAEP proficiency standard and 12 percent performed at the advanced level. Nationwide, 34 percent of fourth-grade students demonstrated reading skills at or above the proficient level and eight percent achieved advanced scores.

The improvement in the reading skills of Virginia fourth graders follows an expansion of the commonwealth's efforts to strengthen the skills of struggling young readers. In 2012, the General Assembly approved Governor Bob McDonnell's request for funds to provide early reading intervention services for 100 percent of eligible students in grades K-3 and to make the promotion of students who fail the grade-3 reading SOL test contingent on intervention. The 2013 General Assembly approved McDonnell's request for state funding for an additional reading specialist in elementary schools with grade-3 reading pass rates below 75 percent.

"In recent years, we've placed an increased emphasis on strengthening adolescent literacy and equipping students with the reading skills that will prepare them for college or a career," Secretary of Education Laura Fornash said.

NCES describes the increase in reading achievement among Virginia fourth graders since 2009 - when 38 percent achieved proficient or advanced scores - as statistically significant.

For the first time in the history of the state-level NAEP, a majority of Virginia's white fourth graders - 51 percent - achieved proficient or advanced reading scores. Twenty-three percent of black Virginia fourth graders earned proficient or advanced scores, as did 25 of Hispanic fourth graders and 65 percent of Asian fourth graders.

Board of Education President David M. Foster said that persistent differences in the performance of student subgroups underscore the importance of the Standards of Learning program in detecting achievement gaps and in identifying low-performing schools in need of state interventions and resources.

"The Board of Education is raising the bar with college- and career-ready standards and innovative assessments that require critical thinking, as well as the mastery of content knowledge," Foster said. "Helping all students meet these higher expectations - regardless of where they live or the schools they attend - is the surest prescription for narrowing and ultimately closing achievement gaps."

Thirty-six percent of Virginia eighth-grade students achieved at or above the proficient level in reading on the 2013 NAEP, the same percentage as in 2011. Four percent achieved advanced reading scores, also the same percentage as in 2011. Nationally, 34 percent of eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced scores and 4 percent earned advanced scores.

Forty-five percent of white eighth graders in Virginia earned proficient or advanced reading scores, as did 17 percent of black students, 26 percent of Hispanic students and 49 percent of Asian students.

In mathematics, 47 percent of Virginia fourth graders achieved scores at or above the proficient level, compared with 46 percent in 2011. Nine percent scored at the advanced level, the same percentage as in 2011. Nationwide, 41 percent of fourth-graders demonstrated achievement at or above the proficient level and eight percent achieved advanced scores.

NCES says the percentage of the commonwealth's fourth graders achieving proficient or advanced scores in mathematics has improved significantly since 2007, when only 42 percent met or exceeded the NAEP proficiency standard.

Fifty-six percent of white fourth graders achieved proficient or advanced mathematics scores, as did 22 percent of black students, 32 percent of Hispanic students, and 70 percent of Asian students.

Thirty-eight percent of Virginia eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced mathematics scores in 2013, compared with 40 percent in 2011. NCES does not regard this two-point decline as statistically noteworthy. Ten percent of the commonwealth's eighth graders earned advanced mathematics scores in 2013, compared with 11 percent in 2011. Nationally, 34 percent of eighth graders earned proficient or advanced scores; eight percent achieved at the advanced level.

Eighth graders in only five states - Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Minnesota and Vermont - achieved higher average math scores than Virginia students, compared with seven states in 2011. NCES describes the increase in grade-8 mathematics achievement in Virginia since 2005 - when 33 percent earned proficient or advanced scores - as significant.

Forty-seven percent of white Virginia eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced mathematics scores on the 2013 NAEP, as did 15 percent of black eighth graders, 25 percent of Hispanic eighth graders, and 64 percent of Asians.

NAEP - also known as the Nation's Report Card - reflects the performance of representative samples of students in each state and nationwide. The 2013 NAEP sampling of Virginia students included approximately 6,100 fourth-grade students and 5,700 eighth graders. NAEP results are not reported by division or for individual schools.

Reading and mathematics tests are administered every two years and provide a means of comparing the progress of states in raising student achievement. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a proficient NAEP score represents solid performance on challenging subject matter - a more rigorous standard than grade-level achievement.


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