Students show math, reading gains


Hawaii’s fourth- and eighth-grade students continue to make gains in reading and math, although their scores remain below the national average in reading at both grade levels and in eighth-grade math.

Fourth-graders, for the first time, scored two points above the national average in math.

That’s according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tested about 719,000 students nationwide in the two grade levels, including about 12,000 in Hawaii. NAEP conducts the tests every other year, releasing the results as The Nation’s Report Card.

Robert Hillier, state coordinator for the assessment, said Hawaii’s gains this year were larger than many other states. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted Hawaii’s progress, according to a press release Thursday from Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s office.

The gains are good, Hillier said, adding, “especially the grade four math is just really, really amazing. We’re very happy with the results overall. Obviously, we need to analyze our strengths and weaknesses.”

He said the state’s results in reading showed students were “keeping pace” with national trends.

“We’re in a better place in reading than we were in 2009, 2007 and 2005,” he added.

Because the program only tests a sampling of students, Hillier was cautious about giving an exact ranking for any of the state’s results. But based on the fourth-graders’ math results, they outperformed their peers in at least 26 states. Hawaii’s 3,000 fourth-graders who took the test came from most of the state’s elementary schools, Hillier said. They scored a 243 average, compared with the national average of 241.

Fourth-graders posted a four-point gain since the 2011 tests, compared with a national fourth grade gain of one point. Since 2003, when all states were mandated to administer the exams, Hawaii’s fourth-graders have gained 16 points, more than double the national seven-point increase.

State education officials also noted 46 percent of Hawaii’s fourth-graders scored at or above the proficient level, nearly 5 percentage points higher than the national average.

Eighth-graders’ average math score this year was 281, three points below the national score of 284. Just more than 32 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficient, which is “statistically comparable” to the national average of 34.4 percent.

In both grade levels, Hawaii students had the second-highest math score gains in the nation this year.

Hawaii’s students scored above only four states in reading scores this year, but still made improvements to their average scores, according to the report card. Nationally, fourth-grade scores were up about 0.6 points, to 220.6, while Hawaii’s fourth-graders raised their score 1.2 points to 214.8. Fourth-graders here had a slightly higher percentage improvement in the number of students score at or above the proficient level than the national improvement rate.

In fourth-grade reading, Hawaii ranks 11th nationally for average score gains since 2003.

Hawaii’s eighth-graders fared better than their younger counterparts in reading this year. They gained three points, moving their average score from 257.2 to just shy of 260 from 2011 to this year. The national average increased from 263.6 to 266 in the same time period.

In eighth-grade reading, Hawaii ranks fifth nationally for average score improvements since 2003.

“It just demonstrates that when you have a focus and a singular belief around student achievement and high expectations, these are the results that can happen,” West Hawaii Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza said Thursday.

He credits consistency in identifying professional development opportunities for teachers and providing curriculum that works with helping Hawaii’s students continue to make gains on the national assessment.

Hawaii’s participation in Race to the Top, a federally funded program that requires adherence to reporting and teacher assessment measures, among other requirements, has also helped, Souza said.

“It’s the cohesiveness that has resulted from that” that has spurred some achievements, he added.

A message left with Keaau-Puna Complex Area Superintendent Mary Correa was not returned Thursday. Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent Valerie Taketa was not in the office Thursday.