Virginia Students Again Outscore the Nation and South in Reading and Math on “Nation’s Report Card”
Virginia fourth and eighthgrade students achieved at significantly higher levels in reading and mathematics on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than their public school counterparts nationwide and in the South.
The NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card, is a national measure of student achievement that is taken by samplings of students in each state and nationwide. Tests in reading and mathematics are administered every two years and provide a means of comparing the progress of states in raising student achievement.
The average scores of Virginia students on the 2005 NAEP reading test were significantly higher than the average scores of students in 35 states in grade 4 and 30 states in grade 8. Students in only one state – Massachusetts – achieved at what the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) considers a statistically higher level on the fourth and eighthgrade reading tests.
“The performance of our students on this year’s national tests continues what is now a tenyear trend of higher achievement in reading and mathematics and reflects the improving quality and effectiveness of instruction in the commonwealth’s public schools,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary. “While much remains to be done to strengthen the reading and mathematics skills of our students, the incremental increases in achievement we are seeing from one administration of the NAEP to the next add up to significant gains over time and show that our schools are moving in the right direction.”
Grade4 Reading
The commonwealth’s fourthgrade students achieved an average score of 226 on the 2005 NAEP reading test, a threepoint improvement over 2003, and significantly higher than 1998’s average grade4 reading score of 217. Statistically, Virginia’s average fourthgrade score for 2005 was significantly higher than the average score for students in the nation and the South of 217.
The achievement of Virginia fourth graders on the 2005 test also was significantly higher than the average score of 221 posted by fourthgrade students in 1992. A plunge in reading achievement on the 1994 NAEP to 213 preceded the revision of the Standards of Learning (SOL) by the Board of Education in 1995 and the implementation of new accountability standards in 1997. Virginia’s average fourthgrade reading score has climbed 13 points since the beginning of the SOL reform in 1995.
Seventytwo percent of Virginia fourthgrade students performed at or above the “Basic” level on the 2005 reading test, compared with 69 percent in 2003. The percentage of Virginia fourthgrade students scoring at the “Proficient” level or above on the test increased 2 points, to 37 percent. The percentage of Virginia fourth graders performing at or above the Proficient level on the NAEP reading test has risen by a statistically significant 11 points since 1994. During this same period, the percentage of Virginia fourthgraders performing below the Basic level (28 percent) has decreased by a statistically significant 15 points.
Average Reading Scale Scores for 1992  2005: Grade 4
Group 
1992 
1994 
1998 
2002 
2003 
2005 
Virginia 
221 
213 
217 
225 
223 
226 
Southeast
South* 
211 
208 
210 
214 
215* 
217* 
Nation 
215 
212 
213 
217 
216 
217 
* NCES revised regional designations in 2003 to reflect U.S. Census Bureau definitions.
Grade8 Reading
Virginia eighthgrade students achieved an average reading score of 268, which was 8 points higher than the national average of 260 and 10 points higher than the average score of 258 for students in the South. NCES considers both of differences as statistically significant. Virginia’s 2005 average grade8 reading score was unchanged from 2003, and two points higher than the average of 266 for 1998, the first year that eighth graders took the NAEP reading test.
Average Reading Scale Scores for 1998  2005: Grade 8
Group 
1998 
2002 
2003 
2005 
Virginia 
266 
269 
268 
268 
Southeast
South* 
258 
260 
259*

258*

Nation 
261 
263 
261 
260 
Seventyeight percent of the commonwealth’s eighth graders performed at or above Basic level on the reading test, which was unchanged from the 2003 administration. Thirtyfive percent of the grade8 students tested performed at the Proficient level or above in 2005, which also was unchanged from the 2003 administration.
Grade4 Mathematics
Virginia fourthgraders have made significant improvements in mathematics achievement in the past 10 years. The average score of Virginia fourth graders on the 2005 NAEP mathematics assessment was 240, compared with 239 in 2003, 230 in 2000, and 223 in 1996. Virginia’s 2005 average gradefour score in mathematics was what NCES regards as a statistically significant three points higher than the average score of 237 for the South and the nation.
Eightythree percent of Virginia students in grade 4 achieved at or above the Basic level in mathematics on the 2005 NAEP, which was the same percentage as in 2003. In 1992, only 59 percent of Virginia fourth graders performed at or above the Basic level. The percentage of students in grade 4 who scored at the Proficient level or above increased 4 points, from 35 percent in 2003, to 39 percent in 2005. The percentage of grade4 students scoring at or above Proficient in reading has increased 20 points since 1996, from 19 percent to 39 percent in 2005. Since 1996, the percentage of fourth graders in the commonwealth scoring below Basic on the NAEP mathematics test has fallen 21 points, from 38 percent to 17 percent.
Average Mathematics Scale Scores for 1992  2005: Grade 4
Group 
1992 
1996 
2000 
2003 
2005 
Virginia 
221 
223 
230 
239 
240 
Southeast
South* 
210 
216 
221 
233*


Nation 
219 
222 
224 
234 
237 
Grade8 Mathematics
The commonwealth’s eighthgrade students also outperformed their peers nationwide and in the South in mathematics by statistically significant margins. In 2005, the average score in mathematics for Virginia students in grade 8 was 284, which was 6 points higher than the national average of 278, and 8 points higher than the average score for the South of 276. The average mathematics score for Virginia students in grade 8 was 2 points higher than the 2003 average of 282, nine points higher than the 2000 average of 275, and 14 points higher than the 1996 average score of 270. Thirtythree percent of the Virginia students in grade 8 who took the national mathematics test in 2005 performed at or above the Proficient level, compared with 31 percent in 2003, 25 percent in 2000, and 21 percent in 1996.
Average Mathematics Scale Scores for 1992  2005: Grade 8
Group 
1990 
1992 
1996 
2000 
2003 
2005 
Virginia 
264 
268 
270 
275 
282 
284 
Southeast
South* 
254 
259 
264 
264 
274* 
276* 
Nation 
262 
267 
271 
272 
276 
278 
Minority Achievement
AfricanAmerican and Hispanic students in Virginia continued to outperform their peers nationwide and in the South in reading and mathematics. AfricanAmerican students in only two states achieved significantly higher fourthgrade reading scores. Black students in only one state achieved a significantly higher reading score in grade 8.
AfricanAmerican fourth graders in the commonwealth achieved a higher average score in mathematics than their peers in all but three states. Black students in grade 8 in Virginia are ranked by NCES as among the highest achieving of their peers in mathematics, with AfricanAmerican students in no other state demonstrating a significantly higher level of achievement on the 2005 NAEP.
AfricanAmerican Reading Scale Scores
for 1992  2005: Grade 4 and 8
Group 
1992 
1994 
1998 
2002 
2003 
2005 
Grade 4 

Virginia 
201 
192 
199 
205 
206 
207 
Southeast
South* 
193 
187 
187 
197 
197* 
199* 
Nation 
191 
184 
192 
198 
197 
199 
Grade 8 

Virginia 
No Grade8 Test Administered 
250 
252 
250 
251 
Southeast
South*

240 
243 
243* 
242* 
Nation 
242 
244 
244 
242 
Black students in Virginia achieved average scores in reading of 207 and 251 in grades 4 and grade 8, respectively, on the 2005 NAEP. The grade4 and grade8 scores were each 1 point higher than in 2003, and are statistically higher than the averages for the nation and the South of 199 for AfricanAmerican students in grade 4, and 242 in grade 8. Since 1994, the average grade4 reading score of black students in Virginia has risen 15 points.
Black students in Virginia achieved average scores in mathematics of 224 and 263 in grades 4 and 8, respectively, on the 2005 NAEP. The grade4 and grade8 mathematics scores for black students in Virginia also represent 1point increases from 2003 and are significantly higher than the national averages of 220 for AfricanAmerican students in grade 4 and 254 for black students in grade 8. Black students in Virginia outperformed their peers in the South in mathematics by 3 points in grade 4 and 8 points in grade 8. Since 1996, the average grade4 mathematics score of black students in Virginia has risen 21 points, while the average score for AfricanAmerican students in grade 8 has risen 19 points.
AfricanAmerican Mathematics Scale Scores
for 1992  2005: Grade 4 and 8
Group 
1992 
1996 
2000 
2003 
2005 
Grade 4 

Virginia 
199 
203 
211 
223 
224 
Southeast
South* 
191 
200 
202 
217* 
221* 
Nation 
192 
199 
203 
216 
220 
Grade 8 

Virginia 
245 
244 
253 
262 
263 
Southeast
South* 
234 
234 
241 
252* 
255* 
Nation 
236 
241 
243 
252 
254 
The average grade4 reading score for Hispanic students in Virginia increased 8 points to 218, compared with 210 in 2003. Virginia Hispanic students’ average grade4 reading score for 2005 was 17 points higher than the national average of 201. The average score of Hispanic eighth graders declined 7 points, from 266 in 2003, to 259 in 2005.
Hispanic fourth graders achieved an average mathematics score of 230 on the 2005 NAEP, which was 5 points higher the average score of their peers nationwide. The average score of Hispanic grade8 students in the commonwealth in 2005 was 270, a 2point improvement over 2003, and 9 points higher than the national average of 261.
Given the relatively small number of Hispanic testtakers in Virginia, NCES does not regard the changes in the average scores of Hispanic fourth and eighthgrade students as statistically significant.
NAEP is the only nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in various subject areas. The 2005 NAEP sampling of Virginia students included 5,251 fourthgrade students from 127 elementary schools and 5,200 eighth graders from 105 middle schools. Five percent of the fourth graders, and 8 percent of the eighth graders tested in reading were students with disabilities. Students with disabilities accounted for twelve percent of the grade4 students and 11 percent of the grade8 students assessed in mathematics.
Participating students with disabilities were tested under standard conditions, or with accommodations permitted by NAEP. Virginia students whose Individualized Education Programs require testing accommodations that are not allowed under NAEP were excluded from 2005 testing. An NCES study of 2005 NAEP results concluded that the inclusion of these pupils would not have affected the average scores achieved by Virginia students.