Alabama Brings Home Disappointing Results on Nation’s Report Card

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is a battery of tests given every two years to a representative sample of students in all 50 states. The test is designed to serve as a national scorecard, allowing comparison of educational performance across the states.

The 2015 results are out. They’re disappointing for the nation at large, and for Alabama, in particular.

In 2015, Alabama’s average math score, in both 4th and 8th grade, was the lowest of any state. Between 2013 and 2015, Alabama’s average score declined in both grades.

Among U.S. states, Alabama had the lowest percentage of students scoring proficient in 4th and 8th grade. Only 26 percent of 4th graders and 17 percent of 8th graders scored high enough on the NAEP to be considered grade-level proficient in math.

While Alabama’s higher poverty rate puts it at something of a competitive disadvantage in national comparisons, a deeper look shows it’s not Alabama’s demographics skewing the results. Name the group — black, white, Hispanic, poverty and nonpoverty — all perform worse than their peers in all other states.

Our neighbor to the west, Mississippi, continued a multi-year trend of improvement in 4th-grade math, surpassing Alabama and being recognized nationally for being one of the few places that saw an appreciable rise in math scores.

When it comes to reading, Alabama’s performance, particularly in 4th grade, had been a bright spot. In 2011, Alabama students matched the national average on the NAEP. But since then there has been a slight downward drift in 4th-grade reading. One minor victory: the average score in reading among Alabama 8th graders rose. However, the results still trail the national average.

It is worth noting that both nationally and in Alabama, the 2015 scores far exceed those posted by students in the 1990s.

In responding to the results, state department officials said the scores made it clear that the state has much work to do when it comes to preparing students for success. The Department plans to study the results and to query teachers to determine what is needed in terms of professional development, then work with school systems to see that it is provided.