Louisiana 4th graders score first in reading growth since COVID, kids still behind in US
Louisiana’s fourth graders had the greatest improvement in reading scores since the COVID-19 pandemic began – outpacing all other states despite interruptions from the pandemic and multiple natural disasters, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The NCES, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, released state results from the National Assessment of Education Progress – also called The Nation’s Report Card. The NAEP measures progress in fourth-grade math and reading and eighth-grade reading and math across the nation.
It’s the first time this data has been released since the onset of the pandemic.
Only a handful of states saw growth in fourth-grade reading since 2019, and Louisiana generally performed better than other states and the country as a whole.
“Our recovery strategy is working, particularly around the area of literacy,” said Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent Cade Brumley. “To be number one in the country for literacy growth, that’s impressive.”
Louisiana fourth graders scored an average of 212 of a possible 500 on the reading assessment, which was an increase of two points from 2019. Only two other states, Alabama and Hawaii, saw their scores increase, and the national average fell by three points. Louisiana’s average ranked 42nd among U.S. states and territories, which was up from 52nd in 2019.
Despite the growth, Louisiana was still below the national average of 216. Around 57% of Louisiana fourth graders scored basic or higher on reading, up by 2 percentage points from 2019. Around 28% were proficient or higher, which was also up by 2 percentage points.
The state’s fourth graders scored an average of 229 out of 500, down from 231 in 2019, which was better than the loss felt by the nation on average, which was five points. Louisiana’s score ranked 42nd in 2022, up from 50th in 2019.
Around 69% of Louisiana fourth graders scored basic or better in math in 2022, dropping by 4 percentage points. About 27% were proficient or better, which was down by 2 percentage points.
Louisiana eighth graders scored an average of 257 out of 500 in reading, which was the same as 2019. Only three states – Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada – saw growth, as did the U.S. Department of Defense Education Agency, which oversees education for children on military bases. The national average dropped by three points. Louisiana ranked 38th in 2022, and 46th in 2019.
Two-thirds of Louisiana eighth graders were rated as basic or better in reading, down 2 percentage points from 2019. Around 27% were proficient or better, which was the same as 2019.
The state’s eighth graders had an average of 266 out of 500 in math, a six-point drop from 2019. The national average fell by eight points. Louisiana’s average score ranked 46th in 2022 and 49th in 2019.
The DCES noted that Louisiana’s changes in average score were not statistically significant, aside from the drop in eighth-grade math.
Reading has been a focal point for Brumley since he took over in 2020, and Brumley has said that the state has a “literacy crisis.” He said the scores – particularly the reading improvement for fourth graders – is a sign that the department’s plans are working.
“(It’s) really good news in a state with a literacy crisis, and in a state where we are trying to achieve a reading revival,” Brumley said.
During a virtual press conference Monday, Brumley acknowledged that the scores showed there was room for improvement, particularly in math. He credited the state’s teachers and educational leaders for helping students continue to grow despite the interruptions caused by COVID and hurricanes.
He also pointed to LDOE’s Louisiana Comeback initiative as a reason the state did not see the same declines as other states. Each public school district and charter school in the state was required to submit a “comeback” plan for the last school year and for this current school year that addresses issues such as attendance, student well-being and targeted support.
Brumley also said the state will look at ways to address the falling scores in math. He said while the declines were not as significant as other states’, it’s concerning to see a drop in a state that already has challenges in education.
“Obviously we’re concerned about some of the declines as a result of the pandemic and storms,” Brumley said. “We know that those declines are not as significant as other states across the country, but any decline in a state that has been long challenged with educational outcomes is a concern.”