NH Ranks at the Top According to NAEP, but Significant Achievement Gap Persists

The achievement gap for minority, poverty, and special education students has remained the same, or worsened, in the past 15 years.

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New Hampshire remains one of the highest achieving states in the nation for fourth and eighth-grade math and reading, according to a recent report from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card.”

NAEP is a test given to students in all 50 states by the U.S. Department of Education. It measures student math and reading proficiency for grades 4 and 8. Becuase all students in U.S. public schools take NAEP (unlike statewide assessments, where each state can choose the assessment it gives its students) it is regarded as a common benchmark to measure student performance. 

New Hampshire’s results dropped slightly from 2015, but still rank in the top four in all categories. NH ranked second in fourth and eighth-grade math and eighth-grade reading, and fourth in fourth-grade reading.

 

Still, there is significant room for improvement: among fourth graders, 43% scored at or above proficient in reading and 48% scored at or above proficient in math, while 45% of eighth graders scored at or above proficient in math and reading. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, these levels indicate mastery of knowledge and skills in a specific content area and that “proficient is not synonymous with grade-level performance.”

“NAEP results are reported as percentages of students performing at or above these levels. Basic denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental to proficient work at a given grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency on challenging subject matter: Proficient is not synonymous with grade-level performance. Advanced signifies superior performance,” according to the NCES website. 

According to the New Hampshire Department of Education (NH DOE), the achievement gap for minority, poverty, and special education students has remained the same, or worsened, in the past 15 years.

For example, in 2017, 12% of special education fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient in reading, while 49% of students without disabilities or a 504 plan did. The achievement gap for students with disabilities has widened since 2003 when 9% of students with IEPs or 504 plans scored at or above proficient, but 34% of their counterparts did.  

Likewise, the achievement gap has increased among economically disadvantaged students: in 2017, 23% of economically disadvantaged students scored at or above proficient in fourth-grade reading, while 52% of non-economically disadvantaged students did. But in 2003, 15% of students with disabilities scored at or above proficient, while 42% of students without disabilities did.

The NH DOE cautioned against comparing the scores with the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment since the NAEP assessments are not state specific and may not fully align with the learning benchmarks that districts have set for their students.

Most states saw stagnant or significant drops in test scores, and the trends are being examined at both the state and national level.

Reaching Higher NH will be doing further analysis on the scores, including a breakdown of performance among different subgroups (including low-income students and students with disabilities) to help inform the dialogue around the growing achievement gap and how we can better prepare all of our students for whichever paths they choose. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive regular updates on our research and analysis.