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Report card: State youths lag in math and reading

Sandra Chereb
The Associated Press

Fourth- and eighth-graders in Nevada lag behind much of the country in their math and reading skills, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Known as the Nation’s Report Card, the assessment is based on a standardized test given every two years to a sample of fourth- and eighth-graders around the country.

Nevada is among 11 states and the District of Columbia where students scored lower than national proficiency in math; and among 14 that had lower reading proficiency.

But State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga said he’s generally pleased with the report.

“We are not making the gains I would like to see, but we are not losing ground,” he said. “As we continue to implement important education reform strategies and more rigorous academic standards in Nevada, I expect to see positive results.”

Erquiaga added that Nevada eighth-graders were among only 11 states that showed statistically significant gain over 2011 reading scores, registering a four-point increase. Average scores in math for fourth- and eighth-graders and in reading for fourth-graders were unchanged from two years ago.

The results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

In Nevada, only 34 percent of fourth-graders could do grade-level math; 27 percent could read at their grade level. Among eighth-graders, 28 percent were proficient in math and 30 percent in reading.

Nationally, 42 percent of fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above the proficiency level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders hit proficiency targets.

Nevada is among 45 states that have enacted new education benchmarks, called Common Core State Standards, to try to better prepare students for higher learning and academics.

For the first time the state also is earmarking money toward English language learners — minority students who do not speak English as their primary language. The 2013 Legislature approved $50 million over the next two years to enhance ELL programs, with a bulk of the funding going to Clark County in Southern Nevada.

Hispanics accounted for 40 percent of Nevada students tested in this year’s assessment.

“The governor’s recommendation and legislators’ approval this year to increase funding for ELL students and expand full-day kindergarten recognizes the changing demographics of our students,” Erquiaga said.

“I do expect these strategies will help improve student achievement in Nevada, but large improvements will not occur quickly.

“It is important that we continue to identify strategies that will continue to move the dial,” he said.