Missouri students math and reading score ranks improve

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COLUMBIA - Missouri students' math and reading scores have remained the same while the rest of country's scores declined on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress test is given to representative sample of fourth and eighth grade students around the country every two years. According to Missouri's NAEP State Coordinator, roughly 4,000 Missouri students took the test this year. And it's the largest nationally representative assessment of what students know and can do. 

The 2015 results showed Missouri went from 39th place to 29th place in fourth grade math, from 26th place to 17th place in eighth grade reading and held steady at 32 in eighth grade math and 26th in fourth grade reading. 

"Test scores, it's kind of a shot in the dark, it's a one day snapshot of student performance," said Southern Boone School District Superintendent Chris Felmlee.

He said, as far as parents are concerned, it's more effective to look at the broader picture of their child's performance over a the course of a few years rather than one test. He said the district values trends over the course of years to see strengths and weaknesses.

Southern Boone School District Assistant Superintendent Tim Roth said the district uses the test results to see how its curriculum aligns with the state's standards. 

"Our test scores are a reflection of our curriculum and how well our day-to-day instruction is implemented for having a greater impact on students," Roth said. "As long as we can see our trend moving upward, I think that's a huge benefit for our schools."

Sylvan Learning Center Director Jill Dudley said stagnant numbers shouldn't be taken as a positive. Comparisons are less important than the state's individual performance. 

"Just because they're average or above average does not mean that there's nothing that they're missing," Dudley said.

She said schools may have more have a stake in the matter, and that may be why they take the numbers as a good news. 

"We don't have to worry about that as much as the school system, because they're held a lot more accountable. Their funding is tied to a lot of different factors, including test scores and things like that," Dudley said. "It's like if you got a C on your test and your friend got a D. Do you really understand the subject matter that well? Not necessarily, but you're the top of the class." 

"We always want a better ranking," said NAEP State Coordinator Cindy Hollis. "We would like to get it when other states aren't going down, that would be our main goal in getting a positive gain without the other states going down." 

Hollis said the test scores are used in order to reach a higher state goal. 

"We're always looking for improvement, we always want students to do better, but NAEP is one dataset used among many others when we look at our Top 10 by 20 goal." 

Missouri was one of only twelve states that did not see a significant change in its scores in both subjects, while 33 states saw a drop in at least one area and 13 states saw a significant increase in at least one subject.