Falling Back

West Virginia needs to improve test scores

We’re making some progress in West Virginia public schools, to judge by newly released test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Unfortunately, we need to move faster. Mountain State students’ performance on the NAEP tests lags significantly behind national averages.

And in some ways, the gap grows greater the longer our children are in school.

Often referred to as “the nation’s report card,” the NAEP is the only standardized test administered throughout the country. Despite its limits — only small samples of students, not all, take the tests — the NAEP is the only way we have of comparing the performance of students in our state with those in others.

Results of 2017 testing of fourth- and eighth-grade students were released last week. They indicate that in reading and mathematics, our fourth-graders are improving. The average math score here was 236, compared to a 239 national public school average. In reading, the state and national averages were 217 and 220 respectively.

By eighth grade, West Virginia and U.S. math score averages were 273 and 283, up slightly since 2015. But reading scores here, at 259, were down slightly and behind the 267 national average.

High school seniors were not tested last year. The last year the NAEP tests were administered to them was 2013 — and for Mountain State residents, the results were unsettling.

NAEP measures test performance two ways. One is points out of a possible 500. The other is in whether individual students are judged proficient in subjects.

After 2013 testing, NAEP judged that just 28 percent of West Virginia 12th-grade students tested were proficient or better in reading. The national average was 36 percent.

It was worse in math. There, just 25 percent of U.S. 12th-graders scored proficient or better. Only 14 percent of West Virginia high school seniors — fewer than one in seven –did that well. Let us hope the next round of NAEP testing shows improvement.

Clearly, we need a lot of it in our state.