KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Fourth- and eighth-graders at Defense Department schools worldwide performed better collectively than their peers at U.S. public schools on a national reading and math test, school officials said late Wednesday.
Across the board, average Department of Defense Education Activity scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were the highest for math since at least 1996 and for reading since 1998, according to test data posted on the NAEP website.
And while agency officials are pleased with this year’s results, “we know that our student performance in mathematics has to be stronger,” Adrian Talley, DODEA’s acting director, said in a news release.
The school system will also continue “to work at decreasing the minority achievement gap for our students,” Talley said in the release.
In the last few years, DODEA has emphasized improving math instruction and its math curriculum to prepare students for more demanding “21st-century” careers in science and math. While DODEA students performed higher than the national average in math on the latest round of NAEP, math scores for last year’s graduating seniors on the SAT test were slightly below the national average.
Blacks and Hispanics in DODEA scored well above their respective minority counterparts in the nation’s public schools on NAEP, but their overall scores lagged behind the average scores of their fellow white students in DODEA in all categories.
The congressionally mandated NAEP is often called “the nation’s report card” because it is the only national assessment that allows comparison of subject matter achievement by students between states. It breaks down results by class – for example all fourth-graders – and groups within those populations, such as female students or Hispanic students. It does not provide scores for individual students or schools.
The reading and math portions of the test were given to fourth- and eighth-grade students in public schools in 50 states, the District of Columbia and DODEA from January to early March 2013. DODEA’s domestic and overseas schools participated as a single jurisdiction.
In reading, DODEA fourth-graders scored an average of 232 out of 500 possible points - 11 points above the national average and two points better than in 2011, the last time the reading test was administered. DODEA eighth-graders scored an average of 277 in reading, also 11 points above the national average and five points better than 2011.
In math, DODEA students also outpaced the nation, but by a smaller margin. DODEA fourth graders scored an average of 245, four points above the national average, and DODEA eighth graders scored an average of 290, six points above the nation.
The test showed that 43 percent of DODEA fourth-graders read at or above the proficient level, compared with 35 percent nationally. For eighth-graders, 45 percent read at or above proficiency, compared to 36 percent nationally.
In math, 45 percent of DODEA fourth-graders scored at or above the proficient level, compared with 42 percent nationally, while 40 percent of eighth-graders were at or above proficient, compared with 35 percent nationally.
The NAEP benchmark of “proficiency” has been criticized by some education experts as too high, an assertion that NAEP administrators strongly dispute.
Talley, in the DODEA release, mentioned the agency’s plans to implement the Common Core State Standards, an effort that he said “will bring more emphasis on rigor and relevance to curriculum and eventually result in more significant improvements in student performance.”
Those standards are part of an initiative to establish a shared set of standards in English instruction and mathematics among the nation’s public schools. They have been adopted so far by more than 40 states and the District of Columbia.