Oregon students perform below national averages in reading, math


Oregon students’ reading and math achievement looked mediocre again this year when compared to nationwide results on the only standardized test given to a representative sample of students in every state.

In reading, Oregon fourth graders’ performance was flat compared to the previous time the test was given, in 2017, and remained slightly below the national average. Eighth graders’ average reading skills dipped just a bit and remained a tad below the national rate.

In math, Oregon fourth graders’ achievement improved yet remained significantly below the national average, reinforcing the findings from the latest Smarter Balanced tests that Oregon elementary students are far behind the curve at mastering today’s math standards. Eighth graders’ math performance dipped and remained just below the national rate.

Those latest test scores come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which the federal government uses to measure math and reading achievement in every state, more than 25 large urban school districts and the nation as a whole every other year.

Nearly 600,000 students in thousands of schools took a portion of the test from January through March of this year.

Nationally, the picture wasn’t pretty. Fourth graders’ performance on the national assessment was essentially flat this year, and eighth graders recorded declines in both subjects tested.

And, like the nation’s growing economic inequality, its educational inequality grew worse as well. Students in the top echelon of achievement held their own over the past two years while those in the lowest quartile showed significant declines in both reading and math, according to the board that oversees the test.

The Oregon Department of Education didn’t issue a press release or a state-conducted analysis of Oregon’s new scores. But state schools chief Colt Gill’s office provided statement that acknowledged the results showed the need for improvement — something Gill and others have said they expect will result from the big bump in education funding that will start next school year due to Oregon’s new tax on businesses.

The new spending on schools, spelled out in a law known as the Student Success Act, must be designed to improve academic achievement and to help students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and students learning English as their second language catch up with other student groups.

Oregon’s latest results on the national assessment “reinforce the need for the Student Success Act,” Gill said.

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