Washington's scores dipped in eighth-grade math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Fourth-grade scores stayed about the same.

Share story

New results from a federal test of fourth- and eighth-graders show a first-ever decline in math scores, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The drop from 2013 was slight — 1 point on the fourth-grade test and 2 points on the eighth-grade test on a scale that ranges from 0 to 500.

The average eighth-grade reading score also dropped 2 points.

Still, the scores for both grades on both tests remain substantially higher than they were in the 1990s,  and officials caution that it’s too soon to know if the decline is a blip or a reversal of the longer trend.

The test scores released Wednesday are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a measure of student achievement that is more or less consistent over time and throughout the country, unlike state achievement tests.

Washington state’s eighth-grade results for math and reading were a few points lower than in 2013 and about the same for fourth-grade. Washington also shows long-term progress for each grade and test, despite the latest dips.

Three to six states scored higher on the four tests than Washington, which was ranked in a middle tier of 19 to 27 states with scores that weren’t statistically different from each other.

While white and black students in Washington have shown gains since 2003, the achievement gap widened on the 2015 test in eighth-grade math.  That’s because white students improved more than black students did. While black students gained 7 points between 2003 and 2013, they took a big step backward in 2015, scoring 5 points less than they did in 2003.

Achievement gaps between white students and Hispanic students on the eighth-grade math test did not significantly change since 2003. Achievement gaps for African Americans and Hispanics also remained unchanged on the  fourth-grade math test since 2003 and on reading tests in both grades since 1998.

The NAEP math and reading exams are given every two years to a sample of students in each state. Each student completes only a portion of the test and students never see their individual scores.

But the tests provide researchers with valid statewide and national samples that describe broad trends in learning.  Some large districts have signed up to get their results as well, but they don’t include Seattle.