The majority of U.S. states have seen a decline in test scores over the last three years in mathematics and reading for fourth and eighth graders, but Alabama’s test scores among those same age groups have only slightly declined or remained practically the same over the same period.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey suggested the scores are a result of the state’s focus on “core learning,” according to a statement from the Governor’s Office on Monday.
The National Assessment of Education Progress report reveals that Alabama fourth and eighth graders still remain below the national average in mathematics and reading proficiency but, on average, no longer rank the state at or near the bottom in math and reading test scores for those grades.
According to the report, fourth-grade testing scores in mathematics remain at 230 from 2019 to 2022, with reading testing scores improving one point from 212 in 2019, to 213 in 2022. Eighth-grade testing scores in mathematics fell from 269 in 2019, to 264 in 2022, and in reading, test scores declined from 253 in 2019, to 251 in 2022.
“This year’s NAEP results confirm that Alabama’s focus on core learning like reading and math is working and that in-classroom instruction matters,” Ivey said in a statement on Monday. “Throughout my first term, we have laid a solid foundation by setting strong standards and an assessment system aligned to our standards. I am confident that we will build on this foundation as we move forward.”
The level of eighth-grade students proficient in mathematics experienced a marked drop in from 2019 to 2022, with 19 percent of eighth graders in Alabama at or above proficient in math compared to 21 percent in 2019, according to the report. Additionally, reading proficiency among eighth graders dropped at nearly the same rate, with 22 percent of eighth graders at or above reading proficiency, compared to 24 percent in 2019.
Alabama fourth graders, the only grade group to see a slight test score improvement in reading, remained at the same proficiency level as they did in 2019, with 28 percent of fourth graders at or above proficient in reading, according to the report. Mathematics proficiency declined by a single percentage point among fourth graders over the last three years, with 27 percent now at or above proficient in math compared to 28 percent in 2019.
“It should also not go unnoticed that while the rest of the nation dropped, Alabama bucked that trend by holding our own and making some progress,” Ivey said. “That is undoubtedly because we pushed to get kids back in the classroom during the pandemic. I applaud our students, teachers and parents. There is still much work ahead, but I am confident that our forward momentum will continue. The future of our state and world is entirely dependent on our students’ education.”
School Superintendents of Alabama executive director Ryan Hollingsworth said in a statement on Monday that superintendents in Alabama public schools “still managed to make gains from 2019 to 2022” despite the learning obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While other states lost ground during the pandemic, Alabama managed to maintain and even grow slightly in that same time under those same circumstances,” Hollingsworth said. “Everyone wants to see Alabama move to the #1 position and I’m proud of the strides that schools across the state are making towards that goal.”