Atlanta—October 9, 2012—States in the Southern Regional Education Board led the nation in progress over the past decade in the percentage of students who met key benchmarks on “The Nation’s Report Card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Five states were national leaders in gains from 2003 to 2011: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Texas. Each made the greatest gain in the nation in at least one of eight key categories: the percentage of fourth- or eighth-graders who scored at or above NAEP Basic or Proficient-level benchmarks in reading or math. All 16 SREB states made progress in the percentages of students who met key NAEP benchmarks from 2003 to 2011.
“No matter where they started, SREB states made great progress, sometimes surpassing national averages,” said SREB Vice President Joan Lord. “SREB states are closing the gap with the nation, thanks to leadership on statewide policies and sustained effort over time. This is what it takes to see real progress.”
The improvements accrued during difficult times. Enrollment in public schools climbed, fueling the nation’s growth in enrollment. Child poverty rates rose, as did the racial and ethnic diversity of students in the SREB region. Yet educational progress continued, even during the long recession that began in 2008.
“In the decade since they adopted the Challenge to Lead education goals, SREB states have raised standards, aligned curricula carefully from grade to grade, and developed assessments to measure student progress,” Lord said. “Setting goals and working toward them with other states has made a real difference in student achievement.”
The SREB policy report spotlights how three states achieved such high rates of improvement. From 2003 to 2011:
Alabama’s growth was four times that of the nation in the percentage of fourth-graders scoring at or above the NAEP Basic level in reading, growing from 52 percent to 67 percent, which surpassed the rate of 66 percent for the nation as a whole. The state credits sustained investment in the Alabama Reading Initiative, a program created in 1998 to raise early-grades reading achievement.
In Maryland, the percentage of fourth-graders who scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level climbed from 32 percent to 43 percent, more than five times the gain of the nation as a whole for this benchmark. The state took a comprehensive approach to preparing and supporting teachers for a revised curriculum launched in 2003. Through block grants to districts, the state funded instructional coaches and math curriculum specialists to work with teachers. Maryland also connected teacher preparation programs at universities with school districts so new teachers learned the new curriculum.
Texas more than doubled the percentage-point gains of the nation for eighth-graders scoring at or above the NAEP Basic and Proficient levels in math. Over more than a decade, comprehensive, state-supported initiatives — the Student Success Initiative and Middle School Students in Texas: Algebra Ready — empowered teachers to focus on preparing students thoroughly for success in math.
SREB States Lead the Nation on NAEP is the first of three SREB reports on how the region led the nation in educational progress over the past decade, as measured for SREB’s Challenge to Lead education goals, in:
SREB will publish Challenge to Lead 2020 Goals for Education later this fall to reflect states’ progress, incorporate new data measures, and help states implement essential policies that have proven effective in raising student achievement.
reading and math achievement on NAEP
high school completion
trends toward increasing postsecondary degree rates