Children in fourth and eighth grades in Defense Department schools have once again turned in strong performances on a national assessment of reading and math.

Students’ scores were either at the top of the charts or in second place, compared with scores of students in other states and jurisdictions who took the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading components.

And while average NAEP scores of students in the Department of Defense Education Activity mostly increased compared with the scores in 2017, the national average scores mostly decreased.

“I am extremely proud of our students’ performance on the 2019 NAEP reading and mathematics assessments,” said DoDEA Director Thomas Brady, in an announcement of the scores.

“The dedication and hard work of our teachers and administrators, along with the implementation of a rigorous College and Career Ready Curriculum, improved on the already impressive performance by DoDEA students on the 2017 NAEP.”

He noted that DoDEA students had the highest scores among black and Hispanic students of any state or jurisdiction, resulting in the smallest statistical gaps in average score between white and black or white and Hispanic students on the NAEP.

“Given this continuing success, we believe that our commitment to providing a world-class education to military-connected students, along with the DoD commitment to families, will allow us to continue to focus our emphasis on equity in our strategic plan and eventually eliminate achievement gaps in our system,” Brady said.

DoDEA students’ average scores ranged from 10 to 18 points higher than most of the corresponding national scores. The exception is the Asian/Pacific Islander group, where DoDEA students scored lower than their peers in all but eighth-grade reading, where they scored a point higher, at 282.

The NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students know and can do in various subject areas. This year’s reading and math assessments were administered in schools between Jan. 28 and March 8. The assessments are conducted periodically in math, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography and U.S. history. The scores range from 0 to 500.

A breakdown of DoDEA students’ performance:

  • DoDEA’s fourth-graders scored highest in the nation in reading. The DoDEA average score was 235, up 1 point from their score in 2017, and 16 points higher than the public school average of 219.
  • Fourth-graders scored highest in the nation in mathematics. The DoDEA average score was 250, up 1 point from 2017, and 10 points higher than the average of 240 for public school students.
  • Eighth-graders scored highest in the nation in reading. The DoDEA average score was 280, the same as the 2017 math average score, and 18 points higher than the average of 262 for public school students.
  • Eighth-graders scored second highest in the nation in math, tied with New Jersey students with a score of 292, but down 1 point from the score of 293 in 2017. Massachusetts eighth-graders scored 2 points higher, at 294. DoDEA eighth-graders’ average was 11 points higher than the average public school score of 281.

NAEP results also are reported in terms of three achievement levels: basic, proficient and advanced.

In 2019, 54 percent of DoDEA fourth graders scored at or above the NAEP proficient level in math, compared with 40 percent nationwide. In reading, 49 percent scored at or above the proficient level, and 15 points above the nationwide average of 34 percent.

As for eighth-graders, 41 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level in math, compared to the national average of 33 percent. In reading, 52 percent scored at the proficient level or higher, compared to 32 percent nationwide.

Not all students take the NAEP. In most cases, it’s a representative sample of students. But in DoDEA schools, all the students in the designated grades take the test that particular year.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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