Hawaii students’ results on the 2019 “Nation’s Report Card,” a periodic test known officially as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, show that fourth graders’ reading and math performance is not significantly different than those of their peers nationally.

But eighth graders lag behind their peers elsewhere in those subjects.

The 2019 NAEP results, released Tuesday, showed a disappointing trend line across the country.

The achievement gap between the highest and lowest scoring students has grown over the last two decades, while eighth grade reading proficiency dipped in more than half the states since 2017, the last time the test was administered.

In Hawaii, 40% of fourth graders were proficient in math while 34% were proficient in reading, which is not that far off from the national average.

However, when it came to eighth graders, just 29% were proficient in reading — compared to 34% nationally — while 28% were proficient in math, compared to 34% nationally.

The 2019 “Nation’s Report Card” results were released on Tuesday. Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat

The NAEP is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, and periodically tests a variety of subjects on students in the entire country, with math, reading, science and writing the most frequent of those — on a biannual basis — at the fourth and eighth grade levels.

The NAEP, first administered in 1969, is given to only a sample of students. Nationally, 600,000 students took the NAEP exams earlier this year. In Hawaii, 4,400 fourth graders and 4,400 eighth graders took the tests.

The Hawaii students’ math and reading scores at both the elementary and middle school level were not significantly different than 2017 results, with the exception of the decline in improvement among eighth grade reading proficiency as was the case across the U.S.

National media outlets quoted a federal education official as attributing that drop in older student reading proficiency to two main areas: reading to learn facts or new information and reading for literary experience, such as understanding plot development or thematic material.

The only school jurisdictions in the country that saw “statistically significant” improvements from 2017 were Washington, D.C., and Mississippi.

In a press release issued late Tuesday, the Hawaii Department of Education touted the significant gains made by fourth grade English language learner students in reading and math, compared with the 2017 results.

The DOE did not immediately provide a comment Wednesday on the specific DOE policies over the last couple of years that led to these gains.

In a statement, Heidi Armstrong, Hawaii’s assistant superintendent for the Office of Student Support Services, said the department was “especially encouraged” by the ELL student progress and that there is “an increased awareness around the specialized supports and services our ELL students require to be successful.”

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