2015 NAEP Scores Reflect Ongoing Transition in Math in Grades 4 and 8
Reston, Va., October 28, 2015-The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) attributed the slight decline in nationwide results on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to a period of transition and changes in mathematics education. Different standards and the related demands on teachers will take time to be reflected in higher scores on the Nation's Report Card.
In 2015, students had an average score in mathematics of 240 points at grade 4 and 282 points at grade 8 on a 500-point scale. The averages were one point lower in grade 4 and two points lower in grade 8 than on the 2013 assessment. Relatively recent changes in standards and the demands placed on teachers to implement new standards and, for some, teach in a different way could be one reason for the slight decline.
“The latest NAEP results may reflect some of the recent changes in mathematics education as teachers implement new standards,” said NCTM President Diane Briars. “Although looking more closely at the results indicates that instructional changes are paying off in some districts and states, it will take more time to see more broad-based benefits nationwide.”
“Another factor may be the mixed messages that many teachers have been receiving about standards and assessment over the past four years. States are doing teachers, students, and families a disservice by investing significant time and resources in disagreements about recently adopted standards instead of investing in effective implementation of these standards.”
“More troubling than the slight decline in the overall average scores are the persistent achievement gaps between various populations,” Briars said. “Much more must be done to improve test scores for African-American and Hispanic students, other minority students, and children in poverty.”
Forty percent of fourth-grade students performed at or above proficient in 2015 compared to 42 percent in 2013 and 24 percent in 2000. In grade 8, 33 percent were at or above proficient in grade 8 compared to 35 percent in 2013 and 26 percent in 2000. Since 1990, NAEP math scores have risen steadily. Scores for grade 4 were 27 points higher in 2015 than in 1990 and they were 20 points higher in 2015 than in 1990 for grade 8.
The Nation's Report Card showed no statistically significant changes in the gap between whites and blacks from 2009. However, both Hispanic and black students have posted considerable gains, especially in math, since 1990.
“In order to see sustained, ongoing improvement over the long term, teachers must help students develop conceptual understanding, problem-solving, as well as procedural fluency. This requires engaging students in tasks that promote problem solving and reasoning on a regular basis. Engaging students in challenging problems should be part of the mathematics education of all students starting in early grades and going through high school,” Briars said. “This is consistent with NCTM's longstanding emphasis on problem solving and reasoning as critical to improving the math proficiency of all students.
“Investing in ongoing professional development and in the continued improvement of teaching is critically important to increasing student learning,” Briars said.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the world's largest professional organization dedicated to improving mathematics education for all students. NCTM's Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All describes the principles and actions, including specific research-informed teaching practices, that are essential for a high-quality mathematics education for all students. The Council is committed to a constructive public dialogue to ensure a mathematics education of the highest quality for all students.
Media interested in arranging an interview with NCTM President Diane Briars should contact Tracy Cullen, NCTM Member Communications Manager, 703-620-9840, ext. 2189 or 571-423-6315 (cell).