Florida 12th graders who took national math and reading tests last year did no better than counterparts who took similar exams four years earlier, according to results released this morning. Those NAEP scores showed similar "stagnation" among the nation's 2013 high school seniors, a trend experts called troubling.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress -- nicknamed NAEP and sometimes called "The Nation's Report Card" -- tests a sampling of students to gauge how the nation's, and various states', students are faring.
The 2013 12th grade exams showed no progress, either nationwide or in the 13 states, including Florida, that tested enough teenagers to earn state scores.
Florida 12th graders who took NAEP exams in March, 2013 posted math scores that were below the national average and a flat line from those in 2009. Nineteen percent of the state's students scored at or above the "proficient" level compared to 26 percent nationwide.
In reading, Florida's 12th graders were closer to the national average but showed little progress from four years ago. Thirty six percent of the state's students were "proficient" or better in reading, compared to 38 percent for the nation.
The so-called achievement gap -- the difference in scores between white and minority students -- also failed to shrink, adding to educators' worries.
"Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite the growth in student achievement over time in elementary and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a statement.
"Just as troubling," he added, "achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed...We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools."
David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, agreed.
"Achievement at this very critical point in a student's life must be improved to ensure success after high school," he said in a statement.
Florida officials, however, said they were pleased the gap between white and Hispanic students was narrower here than in the nation. They also noted that Florida's Hispanic students out-performed their national counterparts, particularly on the reading exam.
On that NAEP reading test, the white-Hispanic gap was 11 points in Florida, compared to 21 points nationally. The state's Hispanic students scored nine points higher on NAEP reading than U.S. Hispanic students overall.
Not surprisingly, the national data showed that the more advanced math classes students took, the better they did on the 12th-grade exam, with those taking calculus doing the best.
On the reading exam, students did best, if they reported they liked reading, found they learned a lot from reading and discussed what they read a lot.
You can find sample questions here. For both reading and math, they show the types of questions 12th graders who scored at the "advanced," "proficient," and "basic" level could answer successfully.