Arkansas test scores improve in 12th-grade math, reading

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas made significant gains in 12th-grade reading and math scores on standardized tests in 2013 compared to 2009, state education officials said Wednesday.

Officials also said there continues to be room for improvement, noting that despite the gains the scores were below national average scores, which remained constant.

A report released Wednesday shows Arkansas students’ average score in 12th-grade reading on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, was 285 out of a possible 500. Although lower than the nation’s average score of 287, this was a statistically significant increase from 2009, when the state’s score was 280. The test is given every four years.

Arkansas also saw statistically significant increases in the below-basic, at-or-above-basic and at-or-above-proficient categories.

In 12th-grade math, Arkansas students’ average score in 2013 was 150, up from 146 in 2009. The nation’s average score was 152.

Increases also were noted in the below-basic and at-or-above-basic categories.

“We are very pleased to see Arkansas’ scores increase in 2013,” state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said in a statement. “There is always room for improvement; however, the achievement gap is closing in several categories.”

In recent years Arkansas has heightened accountability standards for students, teachers and schools.

The tests were administered in every state, but sample sizes were only large enough for state assessments in 13 pilot states, including Arkansas, according to Pam Byrd, NAEP administrator for the state Department of Education.

Arkansas is one of 11 states that began as pilot states in 2009. Department of Education spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman said that of those 11 states, only Arkansas and Connecticut showed significant improvement in both reading and math 2013.

A total of 44,900 12th-graders nationwide were assessed in math last year, with 2,400 Arkansas students tested. A total of 44,300 students nationwide were assessed in reading, with 2,400 students tested in Arkansas.