State touts student scores on national math, reading assessment

By: - October 24, 2022 6:13 pm

School buses line up outside Student Transportation of America on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (Rebecca S. Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — State education officials on Monday touted the scores of Nebraska’s fourth and eighth graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

No other state scored higher than Nebraska’s fourth graders in math on the 2022 test, and only one state scored higher in eighth-grade math, according to the Nebraska Department of Education. In fourth-grade reading, only three states outscored Nebraska, and only seven states scored higher in eighth-grade reading.

Matthew Blomstedt, Nebraska education commissioner (Courtesy of Department of Education)

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said the results were “a testament to the dedication and perseverance of Nebraska’s educators from the beginning of the pandemic to today.”

Both locally and nationally, scores were down in all four tests, the NDE said, but Nebraska’s declines weren’t as large as most states, and students continued to score at or above the national average in each test.

The tests, though, continued to show a significant gap between white students and students of color.

More than 7,500 Nebraska students participated in this year’s NAEP exams.

The math assessment measures both mathematics knowledge and students’ ability to apply their knowledge in problem-solving situations.  The NAEP reading assessment measures reading comprehension by asking students to read selected grade-appropriate materials and answer questions based on what they have read.

In-school learning emphasized

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NAEP testing was pushed back one year. The last results were from 2019.

Blomstedt credited Nebraska’s emphasis in providing as much in-person learning as possible during the 2020-21 school year as well as investing federal COVID relief funds in accelerating student learning.

In addition, the State Board of Education has focused state budget requests on increasing funds for early literacy programs.

Nebraska’s average math score was 242 for fourth graders, compared to the national average of 235, and 279 for eighth grade, six points higher than the national average.

Scores for Blacks, Hispanics lower

Nebraska’s average reading score was 219 for fourth grade, three points higher than the national average of 216, and 259 for eighth grade, the same as the national average.

Other key findings from the tests, according to the Education Department, were:

  • English learners saw significant drops in scores in 2022. They scored 16 points lower in fourth-grade reading, 10 points lower in fourth-grade math and 13 points lower in eighth-grade reading than in the 2019 assessment.  EL students were unchanged in eighth grade math.
  • Black students in Nebraska scored 30 points below white students in fourth-grade math, 37 points lower in eighth-grade math, 34 points lower in fourth-grade reading and 30 points lower in eighth-grade reading.
  • The gap in score averages for Hispanic students: 25 points lower in fourth-grade math, 27 points lower in eighth-grade math and 24 points lower in fourth-grade reading and 22 points lower in eighth-grade reading compared to white students.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.