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NC drops in 4th grade math NAEP scores; other subject scores hold steady

Updated at 8:36 a.m. with a quote from Superintendent Mark Johnson

North Carolina saw a drop in fourth grade math on the most recent release of The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — also known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” 

The results, available today, show the outcomes of assessment of students across the nation in various subject matters by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). North Carolina’s average score in fourth grade math dropped from 244 in 2015 to 241 in 2017. This was the only statistically significant drop experienced by North Carolina. In that time, the nation’s average score as a whole dropped from 240 to 239. The last time North Carolina dropped to 241 was 2005, when the nation’s average was 237. 

Courtesy of NAEP

In eighth grade math, North Carolina’s average score went up one point from 281 to 282, as did the nation’s average. While this score is a very slight improvement for North Carolina from 2015, it puts North Carolina down four points from where it was in both 2011 and 2013. 

Courtesy of NAEP

North Carolina’s average score in fourth grade reading went down slightly since 2015, from 226 to 224. That is the second highest score North Carolina has received going back to 1992. The nation held steady at 221. 

Courtesy of NAEP

In eight grade reading, North Carolina’s average score went up slightly from 264 to 265 in 2017. In contrast, the nation’s average score went up from 261 to 263. 

“Teachers in North Carolina are working hard, and our state has made strong investments in early grades,”said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson in a press release. “While it is frustrating for educators and state leaders to see incremental progress instead of general success, we have spearheaded efforts to ensure that all funds invested by our state actually benefit teachers and students. Also, with new leadership at DPI, we have been reevaluating how those funds can best be used to support teachers and to improve students outcomes.” 

Courtesy of NAEP

NAEP also includes some trial data in select urban districts around the state. In North Carolina, Mecklenburg County participates, and this year, Guilford County participated for the first time. 

In fourth grade math, Guilford County’s average score is 240, which is one point below North Carolina’s and one above the nation’s. Mecklenburg County’s average score was 244, down from 248 in 2015. 

In eight grade math, Guilford County had an average score of 276, well below both North Carolina and the nation’s average of 282. Mecklenburg County scored an average of 287, up one point from 2015. 

In fourth grade reading, Guilford County scored an average of 222, putting it two points below North Carolina and one point above the national average. Mecklenburg County had an average score of 225, down one point from 2015. 

In eight grade reading, both Mecklenburg County and Guilford County scored an average of 260, five points below North Carolina and three points below the nation. This represents a three point drop for Mecklenburg County from 2015. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.