Sec. Dan French at Enosburg Falls, 4-11-2019

Secretary of Education Dan French presides over an organizational meeting for the Enosburgh-Richford Unified Union School District in early 2019.

MONTPELIER – According to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released Wednesday, despite largely performing better than the national average, student scores continued to decline in Vermont.

The NAEP, a national assessment branded as “The Nation’s Report Card,” is administered every two years to students in fourth and eighth grade, testing subjects ranging from reading and mathematics to science and the arts.

According to the Vermont Agency of Education, in 2019, students from Vermont scored above the national average in all assessments but fourth grade mathematics.

Despite performing better than the national average, however, students continued a decade-long trend of declining performance on the nationally administered assessment, with students’ average scale scores declining compared to results from when the NAEP was last administered in 2017.

“This year’s NAEP scores paint a concerning picture for Vermont,” Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said in a statement. “Many of these metrics have been declining for years now, and while Vermont students are still performing above the national average, we clearly have more to do as a state to ensure our students are prepared for success.

“I urge school districts to pay attention to these results and make sure we are focused on providing high-quality instruction in core skills like literacy and mathematics.”

NAEP provides state level and national results, but doesn’t report results from individual students, schools or districts.

Nationally, NAEP scores have stagnated, with most states seeing little or no improvement in reading and mathematics in either grade level. According to results shared by the Agency of Education, the lowest-performing students national showed the steepest decline in scores.

In Vermont, students performed better than the national average in fourth grade reading and eighth grade reading and mathematics. Scores for fourth grade mathematics narrowly missed the national average.

According to results shared by the Agency of Education, schools “that largely prepared students for state assessment in reading scored significantly lower in 2019 than schools that moderately prepared for state assessment in reading.”

Per the Agency, “schools that moderately prepared students for state assessment in reading scored lower than schools that only prepared students for a small amount of time.”

The NAEP also found that schools with math clubs and chess clubs performed better in mathematics assessments, as did schools with math competitions. Schools with Family Math Nights, meanwhile, did not.

According to a statement released by the Agency of Education, the U.S. Dept. of Education warns against using the NAEP’s statewide results to make casual inferences.

“While the NAEP results are a useful barometer – they help us understand what’s happening – we shouldn’t use the data to leap to conclusions about why we see the trends that we do,” said Director of the Data Management and Analysis Division Wendy Geller in a statement. “They are a signpost for us to dig deeper, not an answer or an indication of a cause and effect relationship.”

According to the Agency, NAEP results provide a “helpful general metric for understanding where we are as a state in reading and math achievement.”

“We will be taking a deeper look at the NAEP data along with Smarter Balanced data to determine if trends can be identified and patterns established,” said Deputy Secretary Heather Bouchey in a statement. “It’s important that we work together and do everything we can to ensure the success of Vermont students.”

Per their statement, the Agency of Education will advise school districts on “possible approaches to program and practice, as well as how to incorporate these results in the context of ongoing continuous improvement efforts happening in every Vermont school district.”

“In particular, the agency is exploring how an increased focus on literacy can be leveraged to improve student outcomes,” the agency said in a statement.

A fact sheet featuring NAEP results for Vermont, corrected late Wednesday afternoon after the Agency mistakenly reported a specific result from the NAEP, can be found online at: https://bit.ly/2r1NN59.