Test scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students in Department of Defense schools are among the top in the nation in reading and math, according to recently released scores of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Reading scores of both grades are tied for first in the nation. Mathematics scores for fourth-graders are tied for second highest; eighth-graders' scores are tied for fourth.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress — or NAEP — is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography and U.S. history. The NAEP tests were administered to fourth- and eighth-grade students from January to early March. The last time these tests were administered to this age group was in 2013. Department of Defense Education Activity as an entity is compared to the states and the District of Columbia.

The scores increased for DoDEA students in fourth-grade reading and math and stayed the same in the eighth-grade subjects, compared to the 2013 scores. Meanwhile, the national average NAEP scores dropped in mathematics and in eighth-grade reading.

DoDEA Director Thomas Brady said the school system is pleased that DoDEA students rank among the top performing in the country.

"We are encouraged by the progress we see in the average overall fourth-grade reading scores and in the proficiency rates in the fourth-grade reading and mathematics areas as well as increases in participation of students with disabilities," Brady said in a statement announcing the results.

But DoDEA must address the rates of proficiency in subjects, achievement gaps and, in some areas, scores that have remained stable with no growth, he said. "There doesn't appear to be any one reason for what we are experiencing in regard to our results, but we do know that the NAEP is providing us valuable information about student performance that will inform our future practices."

The NAEP results confirm "we have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that our young people are ready for success in college, careers and life," Brady said. DoDEA is beginning to implement new College and Career Ready Standards in mathematics and literacy.

Officials also note that the NAEP scores are just one element in assessing students' progress.

The U.S. Education Department factors in a standard measuring difference in its scores and rankings, so in some cases, even when DoDEA students' scores were a few points higher or lower than a state, they were ranked equally. The NAEP mathematics and reading scores range from 0 to 500.

For DoDEA fourth-graders:

  • Reading scores were up 2 points from scores in 2013 to 234. The national average is 221. These students are tied for highest scores in the nation with students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
  • Mathematics scores were up by 3 points from scores in 2013, to 248. The national average is down 1 point to 240; DoDEA is tied for second highest in the nation with seven other states.

For DoDEA eighth-graders :

  • Reading scores were the same as scores in 2013 at 277. The national average was down 2 points to 264. DODEA students are tied for highest scores in the nation with students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
  • Mathematics scores were statistically the same as 2013 at 291. The national average is 281 down 2 points. DoDEA students are tied for fourth place with New Jersey, Vermont, Wisconsin and Virginia.

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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