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The report found that 72% of Washington’s eighth graders are not proficient in math

By meerna Jun11,2024

(Courtesy of Pixabay)

A new report finds that in recent years, most elementary and middle school students in Washington, D.C., were not meeting basic standards in reading and math.

An Annie E. Casey Foundation analysis found that in 2022, 66% of Washington’s fourth graders were not proficient in reading and 72% of eighth graders were not proficient in math.

A spokesman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction noted the progress the state is making based on other means and questioned “the methodology and narrative pushed by the Foundation in its media coverage.”

“National reports like this one can sometimes overlook key differences in state-by-state data sets and definitions, leading to state-to-state comparisons that are presented as apples-to-apples but actually are not,” spokeswoman Katy Payne said. “These high-level comparisons are often not sophisticated enough to capture key nuances.”

The foundation’s report has been published almost annually since at least 2005 and uses data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was established by Congress to monitor student achievement across the country.

Stephan Blanford, executive director of Children’s Alliance, the foundation’s Washington partner in producing the report, acknowledged that the tests – which form the basis of proficiency statistics – are “problematic for several different reasons.”

“But they give us an imperfect picture of how schools are performing,” Blanford added.

“You could throw the baby out with the bathwater if you completely ignore the value of test results. They are telling us something,” he said.

Data from all 50 states, published annually by the foundation, show that Washington students perform slightly better than the national average. In 2022, across the United States, 68% of fourth-grade students were not proficient in reading and 74% of eighth-grade students were not proficient in math.

“We’re moving up the rankings,” Blanford said. “But I always take it with a grain of salt because we are competing with some countries that hardly invest in their children at all. That’s a low bar.”

Payne touted Washington’s rise in the rankings and said Washington’s test scores have been rising over the last two years. “Test scores have declined throughout the world during the pandemic,” she noted.

“A more sophisticated analysis of how our students are performing would allow us to measure improvement since this decline,” Payne said.

While a 50-state report covering the same data for the last two years is not yet available, Blanford said that in conversations with district leaders and teachers, “disruption in schools is now at levels that have never been seen before.”

The Kids Count Data Book also analyzes indicators related to the economy, family and health to produce state-level child well-being rankings. Despite ranking 14th overall, Washington ranked 26th in education.

The report found that eighth-graders in Washington also experienced a significant loss of math skills during the pandemic. The percentage of eighth-grade students proficient in math decreased by 12 percentage points from 2019 to 2022.

Payne said improvement in math scores increased in 2022-2023, and the percentage of Washington eighth-graders passing high school-level math in middle school is “significantly higher than the national average.”

Blanford said he is particularly concerned about the number of students of color and low-income students across the country.

Black and Native American students in particular are struggling. In 2022, 89% of American and Alaska Native eighth graders were not proficient in math, and the same was true for 91% of Black eighth graders. The report did not take into account state demographics.

Blanford also highlighted the number of children who are not attending educational institutions. Between 2018 and 2022, 57% of 3- to 4-year-olds in Washington were out of school. There is a “close correlation between engagement in early learning and the success of elementary and middle schools,” Blanford said.

Payne said the state hit record levels of kindergarten readiness this fall.

“We have made progress in every area identified in this report and we will continue our efforts by advocating and pushing for more,” she added.

The report comes at a time when parents in Washington are increasingly withdrawing their children from public schools.

Related: A state report shows charter schools in Washington state perform at par with other public schools

Blanford said that’s unfortunate because the fewer children who attend public school, the fewer dollars the school receives, leading to a “vicious spiral to the bottom,” he said.

“My primary concern is parents and children who do not have the opportunity to attend private schools, and I will make sure these schools are successful for them,” Blanford said. “I firmly believe that if you make schools successful for them, you make them successful for all children.”

by Grace Deng, Washington State Standard

The Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor Bill Lucia: [email protected]. Follow the Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

By meerna

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