WASHINGTON – Eighth graders in Maryland ranked fifth in the nation in the amount of improvement they have shown on math scores, but still ranked slightly below the national average in 1996, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.
The report analyzed scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests given to 4th and 8th graders in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and military bases.
The tests included problems dealing with measurements, geometry, data analysis and algebra.
The average score for 8th graders in Maryland jumped nine points from 1990-’96, from 261 to 270. The national average in 1996 was 271.
Scores for fourth graders in Maryland went up three points from 1992-’96 – the only years NAEP administered tests to that grade – from 218 to 221. The national average in 1996 was 222.
U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley said Maryland and seven other states showing marked improvement “have gotten excited about education,” and “have done the hard work of raising standards.”
Steven Ferrara, director of student assessment for the Maryland Department of Eduction, said, “Clearly, Maryland has been in the process of improving its schools.”
Ferrara said several factors may have led to the leap in test scores, including marked improvements in curriculum, instruction and assessment in the last decade.
James Fey, a math professor at the University of Maryland who studies math education in the state, said a catalyst for the improvement may have come from the Maryland Performance Assessment Program, a battery of tests given to 4th, 6th and 8th graders.
The program has been emulated by several other states since it was instituted in 1991.
“One of the things Maryland has done ahead of the curve line is assessing what kids know,” Fey said.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia placed last in the nation in 1996 in both 4th- and 8th-grade math test averages.
While scores for 4th graders dropped five points between 1992 and 1996, from 192 to 187, scores for 8th graders increased by one point from 1990 to 1996. The scores went from 232 to 233.
Eighth graders in North Carolina had the largest increase in average math scores on the tests, up 17 points from 1990 to 1996.
North Dakota had the highest average score among eighth graders, at 284. And students in Maine had the highest average test scores among fourth graders, at 232. -30-