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Hawaii students’ reading scores improve as the nation’s stagnate

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    Roosevelt High School. A student takes meticulous notes.

Hawaii’s public school students boosted their reading scores substantially, but math performance slipped for eighth-graders in the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to results released late today in Honolulu.

The test, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” is given every two years as a common measure of student achievement across the country. Hawaii’s improvement over the last decade has outstripped the nation’s, but it hasn’t quite caught up.

Thirty percent of Hawaii’s eighth-graders were proficient in reading in 2017, a jump from 26 percent two years earlier, the last time the exam was administered. Nationally, eighth-grade reading edged up to 36 percent proficient from 35.

Fourth-graders in Hawaii improved their reading proficiency rate to 32 from 29 between 2015 and 2017. Nationally, fourth-grade reading proficiency remained flat at 36 percent over the two years.

“The uptick we’re seeing in reading scores among our eighth-graders is encouraging,” said state schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, adding that Hawaii was one of only 10 states to show solid progress in eighth-grade reading.

On math tests, Hawaii’s fourth-graders held steady at 38 percent proficient, while the national figures remained flat at 40 percent proficient. The difference between the two groups is not considered statistically significant.

Math caused Hawaii’s eighth-graders more trouble this time, with the proficiency rate falling to 27 percent from 30 percent between 2015 and 2017. Nationally their counterparts moved up to 34 percent proficient from 33 percent.

“We are very proud of the progress in our reading scores,” said Assistant Superintendent Rodney Luke. “We also need to strengthen our math performance and close the gap with national scores.”

Proficiency levels are set by the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent, nonpartisan organization established by Congress. Students ranked proficient demonstrate solid academic performance and competence with challenging subject matter, according to the board.

Over the last decade, Hawaii has raised its reading proficiency to 32 percent from 26 percent for fourth-graders, and to 30 percent from 20 percent for eighth-graders. In math, proficiency rates rose to 38 percent from 33 percent for fourth grade and to 27 from 21 percent for eighth grade.

The test ranks performance by four proficiency levels: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. The proficiency rate combines the proficient and advanced categories.

“We noticed in the 2017 results the gaps between the lowest and highest performers nationally are increasing,” said Brian Reiter, assessment section administrator for the Department of Education. “However, we do not see Hawaii mirroring that trend.”

“This is an indication of Hawaii’s equity and how we really value that all students are receiving a quality education, whether the lowest-­performing or the highest- performing,” Reiter said. “We want to make sure that all students are getting the education they deserve.”

The exams were given to about 2,300 fourth-graders and 2,200 eighth-graders in Hawaii, a representative sample of the public school population.

Along with proficiency rates, average scores were released for each state. Again, Hawaii has shown progress over the last decade but still generally lags the national averages.

Hawaii’s fourth-grade average score was 216 in reading, compared with 221 for the nation as a whole, and 238 in math compared with 239 nationally. For eighth-graders the average reading score in Hawaii was 261 compared with 265 nationally, and the math score was 277, compared with 282 nationally. The scale is 0 to 500.

“The percentage of students ranked ‘at or above proficient’ in reading shows continued improvement over time,” Kishimoto said. “Our students’ improvements over the last 12 years continues to be some of the highest in the nation and reflects the hard work of our students and teachers.”

To read the state and national reports, visit

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