State’s 4th- and 8th-graders again earn top marks on ‘nation’s report card’

Massachusetts’ fourth and eighth-graders have once again earned top scores in reading and math on a federal test.

It was the fifth consecutive strong showing for Bay State students on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, known as the nation’s report card. They ranked first for eighth grade math scores, and tied for first in fourth grade reading and math scores and eighth grade reading scores, according to results announced today.

“Education is the Commonwealth’s signature calling card around the world,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more proud of our students, teachers, and school administrators whose dedication and hard work made this remarkable achievement possible.”

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Although Massachusetts students scored well above the national average on all four tests, the average reading scores for fourth-graders declined by five points. Only two other states besides Massachusetts saw a significant reading decline between 2011 and 2013.

“Our lower grade reading scores are a cause for concern,” Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in a statement.

To address this issue, schools will begin implementing a curriculum of core state standards, which are more focused and rigorous. The standards put greater merit on reading, writing, speaking, and listening across all subjects, state officials said.

In addition, a new evaluation system for teachers will soon be implemented in hopes of strengthening best practices.

School officials say they are also working to close achievement gaps. In all the categories of the National Assessment, white students performed better than minorities. In fourth grade reading, for example, white students on average scored 32 more points than African Americans and 33 points more than Hispanic students.

The NAEP test is conducted every two years in all 50 states. For the 2013 test, 9,300 randomly selected fourth-graders and 8,500 eighth-graders took the tests.