What the 2022 NAEP results actually say to Alabamaans

What if I told you that Alabama’s eighth-grade grades in reading and math are either worse than or equal to what they were more than two decades ago?

Would you believe me across the various celebratory slogans touting Alabama’s “progress in educational achievement” on the same level as “winning a national championship”? You may have even seen the Alabama Department of Education billboards that said, “Alabama Schools Are On The Rise.” However, recent results from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) underscore the current status of Alabama public school students , and the data does not match the rhetoric of the celebrities.

NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card, is known as the “largest nationwide representative and continuous assessment of what students in public and private schools in the United States know and can do in a variety of subjects,” according to a recent study press release.

NAEP is a Congressional commissioned project of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and is sponsored by the US Department of Education. The Nation’s Report Card has been a measure of student academic achievement since 1969. Participating schools are identified from the U.S. Department of Education’s public school system database, and then fourth, eighth, and 12th graders are randomly selected to participate in the NAEP on up to two subjects. NAEP also evaluates select private students, but the 2022 state results apply only to public schools. Most recently, NCES released the 2022 NAEP reading and math scores of fourth and eighth graders in public schools. While NAEP scores represent only a cross-section of public school test scores, they have been a national benchmark for more than 50 years.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey specified“This year’s NAEP results validate that Alabama’s focus on core learning, such as reading and math, is working and that classroom instruction is important.”

Governor Ivey is correct in noting that the state has rightly kept its public schools open during the pandemic. She is also right that reading and arithmetic are core skills for civil society. Important tasks such as filling out a check book and reading are essential to society. However, according to the state’s NAEP results, is Alabama focused on core learning?

Here’s the full story of Alabama’s NAEP results Yes, really tell us:

Although Alabama’s rankings have risen, its test scores (except for a point out of 500 in fourth grade) have not improved from the last NAEP assessment in 2019 due to the Covid19 pandemic.

The NAEP results show the significant impact of the pandemic on academic growth and well-being of fourth and eighth graders.

Math and reading tests are worth 500 points. In math, the results show a nationwide average decrease of five points for fourth graders and an eight point decrease for eighth graders. No states improved in math. In terms of student reading literacy, national mean scores dropped three points in fourth and eighth grades.

Alabamaers are celebrating this year’s results, however, because Alabama moved up from bottom 52nd to 40th in the math rankings, which Dr. Eric Mackey, State Superintendent, called “huge for Alabama.” In reading, Alabama’s rank rose from 49th to 39th.

Mackey has been involved with the Alabama public school system since 1993, first as a high school teacher, then as superintendent of Jacksonville City Schools, and then as executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama (SSA) from 2011 until his appointment as state superintendent. 2018

In response to the 2022 NAEP results, Mackey even went so far to say“We are definitely on the right track.”

But does this “right way” lead to success? The jump in the rankings looks like a huge achievement, but the data reveals a bigger story.

The reality is that Alabama public school students’ test scores aren’t far superior to years past, but other states are doing worse because they’ve closed their schools, and Alabama, to its credit and as Governor Ivey noted, has its school doors open held . What Alabamians are really celebrating is that other states’ scores have fallen significantly more than Alabama’s scores, not our state’s superior educational performance. Alabama is celebrating that student scores are declining at a slower rate than other states.

If Alabama’s goal is academic success, it shouldn’t be enough to celebrate climbing the ladder when test scores plummet.

Here’s what the 2022 NAEP results show in Alabama:

All eighth-grade math and reading declined, and fourth-grade math scores did not improve. Reading in fourth grade was the only area that increased, but the score rose by just one point (from 212 to 213 out of a possible 500 points). All fourth and eighth graders are below the national average both reading and math.

Eighth grade NAEP math scores are the same like in the year 2000, 22 years ago. NAEP scores for eighth grade reading are four points lower than 1998, 24 years ago.

Out of a possible 500 points, Alabama’s average eighth-grade math score in 2022 was 264, the same as in 2000 and a three-point decrease from 269 in 2019. The state’s average eighth-grade reading scores in 2022 were 251, two Points less than 253 in 2019 and four points less than Alabama’s average score of 255 in 1998.

Poor performance, particularly in critical skills, in fourth and eighth grades signals a potential systemic problem. Although NAEP results are not ranked by district, the bottom line is that the average student in AL enters and exits middle school without significant progress. In fact, eighth grade NAEP scores in Alabama ranked lower nationally than the state’s fourth grade scores.

That alone should be a wake-up call for the Alabamaans. Does the state want to be known for an underachieving dynasty? NAEP scores are a long-term metric used to measure academic success. Is it logical to keep the same educational structure but expect different results year after year?

If Alabama’s scores are the same or lower than they were 24 years ago, it’s not time to double down on what the state has done in the past. That would be educational madness.

Emma Gibney is Policy Communications Manager for the Alabama Policy Institute. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policies or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email to with your name and contact information [email protected].

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