Hawaii News Students’ scores rise but still trail peers’ By Mary Vorsino Nov. 1, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Fourth- and eighth-graders in the islands continued to make gains in reading and math this year on a nationally standardized test, but Hawaii’s scores remained below those of most other states except in fourth-grade math. Hawaii Department of Education officials said the National Assessment of Educational Progress results, scheduled for release today, illustrate the improvements public students statewide have made over the past decade. This year, Hawaii was the only state with gains in all grades and subjects. And for the first time, Hawaii fourth-graders scored just below the national average in math, with an average score of 239 points out of a possible 500. That’s up from an average Hawaii score of 216 in 2000 and 236 in 2009. But in results likely to reinforce negative opinions of Hawaii’s public school system, fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade reading and math scores remained below the national average on the standardized exam. State schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the department wants to "improve the trajectory" of Hawaii’s NAEP test scores in the next few years, but added the year-over-year gains show the state has done the right thing in pushing for more rigorous math and reading standards. "We really want to celebrate our continuous improvement," she said. "There’s always room for improvement … and it’s certainly not where we want it to be. But it’s celebrating the progress, the path along the way." DOE officials pointed out that Hawaii has seen some of the highest improvements in the nation at a time when the number of English as a second language learners and low-income students has increased. From 2003 to this year, a DOE analysis shows, fourth-graders in the islands saw the fourth-highest gains in the nation for math. Eighth-graders saw the fifth-highest gains in math and the fourth-highest gains in reading. In a statement, Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP, commended the state for its scores this year and said he was "encouraged by their continued growth." Robert Hillier, state NAEP coordinator, said public schools "really achieved a goal" in bringing fourth-grade math scores up to the national average. If all students continue to see improvement, Hillier added, Hawaii scores for all subjects and grades could hit the national average by 2013. Hillier added the fourth-grade reading scores and the eighth-grade reading and math scores are showing "nice improvements, but they’re still not where I’d like them to be. (They are) lower than we wish." Hawaii’s eighth-graders fared worst in reading, ranking 46th in the nation, with scores lower than 40 other states and jurisdictions, higher than two and "not significantly different" from nine, the results showed. In math, eighth-graders ranked 41st among the 50 states, overseas Department of Defense schools and the District of Columbia, while fourth-graders ranked 33rd. Fourth-graders ranked 43rd in reading. The results come as the department works to implement a host of educational reforms aimed at improving student performance, turning around low-performing schools and boosting teacher effectiveness. About 9,000 eighth-graders and 6,000 fourth-graders statewide took NAEP, also known as the "Nation’s Report Card," during a testing window from January through March. Nationwide, 422,000 fourth- and 343,000 eighth-graders took the test in all 50 states and two jurisdictions. The national picture for NAEP was mixed this year: While fourth- and eighth-graders saw higher average scores in math from 2009, the last time NAEP was administered, average scores for reading were unchanged for fourth-graders. Eighth-graders continued an upward trend in reading. Minorities and disadvantaged students continued to see achievement gaps on the exam, though the gaps narrowed in some states. The NAEP results for Hawaii also showed: » In reading, eighth-graders had an average score of 257, below the national average of 264. But the average score for the group was up from 255 in 2009 and 252 in 2002. Meanwhile, about one-third of eighth-graders tested at the "below basic" level, from 41 percent in 1998. » Eighth-graders achieved an average score of 278 in math, up four points from 2009 and up 15 points from 2000. Meanwhile, 32 percent of students tested at the "below basic" level, down from 48 percent in 2000. » Fourth-graders had a good showing in math, with 39 percent scoring at the "proficient" or "advanced" level and 41 percent testing at the "basic" level. Twenty percent were at the "below basic" level in math. » In reading, 41 percent of fourth-graders scored "below basic," and about one-third were at the "basic" level. Overall, the average score for Hawaii’s fourth-graders was 214, up from 211 in 2009 and 200 in 1998. The national average for fourth-graders in reading this year was 220. » The achievement gap for disadvantaged students has remained roughly the same for both subjects from levels seen as far back as 1990s. Previous Story Kaiser seeks 8.8% increase Next Story Tripler soldier is killed abroad trying to 'help other people out'