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Report: Hawaiʻi Grade 4 outperforms peers amid national pandemic learning declines

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Hawai‘i’s fourth-graders held steady, performing above national averages in reading and math, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results released on Monday. The results come amid across-the-board national declines in reading and math scores.

Hawai‘i’s steady performance is notable given the pandemic’s adverse impact on student learning locally and nationally, according to the state Department of Education.

Hawai‘i’s eighth-graders, meanwhile, performed at the national level for the first time in reading, and slightly below the national average in math.

NAEP 2022 Hawaiʻi charts

Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP is an assessment program of the National Center for Education Statistics that provides comparable results across states on select subjects. NAEP is typically administered every two years to a representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide. Approximately 8,000 Hawai‘i public school students enrolled at 140 schools took the tests in the spring of 2022, the first time the assessments were administered since 2019.

“The fact that our students held steady on three out of the four NAEP assessments, compared to national drops across the board, speaks to the resilience of our students and the dedication of our educators,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a department press release. “Still, from the NAEP and our own data, we know that our math performance — especially in our middle school grades — continues to lag below our state targets and national levels. As we continue to analyze these and other performance indicators, we are doubling down on our efforts to determine where more support and interventions are needed to improve learning and achievement for all students.”

The national results are among the multiple measures that the Hawai‘i State Department of Education uses to gauge the progress of students and public schools. The NAEP results validate the HIDOE’s recently released annual Strive HI performance results that showed overall gains in academic performance across core subject areas on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which measures whether students are on track for college and career success throughout grade levels.

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Hawai‘i’s proficiency levels on Smarter Balanced English language arts was the highest among 10 states reporting 2021-22 scores, and was near the highest-performing states in mathematics.

“As measured by our state assessments, students’ language arts and mathematics proficiency dropped during the pandemic, then improved last year with the return to in-person learning, despite a record number of students being absent,” Deputy Superintendent Tammi Oyadomari-Chun said. “The NAEP and Smarter Balanced Assessment results indicate that our students, for the most part, are performing at the same level as or above their national peers, and that the nationwide pandemic impacts have been more severe in many other states.”

NAEP state coordinator Dewey Gottlieb added: “While it’s helpful to be able to compare pre- and post-pandemic scores, one of the really powerful ways of using NAEP data is to take a step back and look at long-term trends. Over the last 15 years our fourth-grade reading scores have shown a continuous upward trajectory, which is true for about only eight other states.” He attributes that growth in part to the HIDOE’s coordinated efforts to boost literacy. 

Hawai‘i’s improvement over time on the NAEP has been nationally recognized as one of the highest in the country. The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2016 ranked Hawai‘i No. 2 in the nation for improvement in fourth- and eighth-grade statewide performance on the NAEP between 2005 and 2015.

The Hawaiʻi DOE released the following details regarding the report:

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Fourth-grade reading

Hawai‘i’s average scale score increased by 1 point from 2019 levels. While Hawai‘i’s year-over-year increase is not statistically significant, it is 3 points higher than the national average for fourth-grade reading, and Hawai‘i’s performance above the nation is statistically significant.

NAEP results are reported in four achievement levels: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. The percentage of Hawai‘i fourth-graders performing at the proficient and advanced levels in reading increased by 2 points from 2019, and is 3 points higher than the national average. 

Over the past decade, while the national average essentially remained unchanged and then declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawai‘i’s average scale score has shown a significant and steady increase.

Fourth-grade math

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In fourth-grade math, Hawai‘i’s average scale score decreased by 2 points, which is not a statistically significant change. Hawai‘i’s score is 2 points higher than the national average for fourth-grade math.

Eighth-grade reading

In eighth-grade reading, Hawai‘i’s average scale score increased by 1 point from 2019 — matching the national average. 

The percentage of Hawai‘i eighth-graders performing at the proficient and advanced levels in reading increased by 2 points from 2019, and is 2 points higher than the national average. 

Eighth-grade math

Eighth-grade math continued to be a challenging area. In eighth-grade math, Hawai‘i’s average scale score decreased by 5 points from 2019. 

By comparison, of the 53 jurisdictions that participated in NAEP (50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense Education Activity schools), none showed an increase in average scale scores for eighth-grade math from 2019.

More information is available at the NAEP website https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.

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