Nevada kids still behind on nation's report card

Nevada students continue to trail the rest of the United States in math and reading on this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the nation's report card.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of the tests given this year to 760,000 students in fourth and eighth grades, which are seen as educational milestone years. Students can score in a range of 0 to 500, with a scale score of 250 equaling a 50 percent score.

For the sampling of Nevada fourth-graders tested, the average score was 47 percent in math and 43 percent in reading. For eighth-graders, the average score was 56 percent in math and 52 percent in reading.

Though Nevada's lackluster results keep the state's ranking in the bottom quarter of all states, there is a silver lining, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault said.

Nevada students have failed to reach the national average in math or reading since the national biannual testing started in 1990, but both the nation's and Nevada's students have improved their average scores with each test administration. Nevada students just can't catch up, Rheault said. The state is climbing the same upward curve as the nation as a whole, just on a parallel, lower course.

"Improvement has been steady, not spectacular," Rheault said. "We're still far from where we ought to be."

Students across the country are improving but still score lower than officials would like. For fourth-graders, the average national score was 48 percent in math and 44 percent in reading. For eighth-graders, the average national score was 57 percent in math and 53 percent in reading.

The nation's report card on math and reading shows fourth- and eighth-graders scoring their best ever in math and eighth-graders making some progress in reading.

"Despite the improvement, it's clearly not enough," said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board.

Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of the Clark County School District, couldn't agree more. District results aren't yet available, but district students account for three-quarters of all Nevada students.

The district knows its students are "struggling," Martinez said. For that reason, it's kicking off an unprecedented program after winter break for 43,000 students in third through eighth grade who are performing below grade level, he said.

The intervention will include individual meetings with students and parents to build and institute tailored catch-up plans.

"We've never done anything at this scale," Martinez said. "But these test results show the urgency."

The reading test asked students to read passages and recall details or interpret them. In math, students were asked to answer questions about topics such as geometry, algebra and number properties and measurement.

The Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics administers the test.

The results released Tuesday are a stark reminder of how far the nation's students are from achieving the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which calls for every student to be proficient in basic skills by 2014.

"The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. "It's clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation's children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st century."

The results come as states, including Nevada, are clamoring for waivers to No Child Left Behind, the 2002 law that was heralded as a way to help low-income and minority children.

President Barack Obama said in September that because Congress had failed to rewrite the law, he was allowing states that meet certain requirements to get around it. Forty states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have said they intend to seek waivers, according to the Education Department.

Meanwhile, there has been some progress in the House and Senate in rewriting the law, but it's unclear whether Congress will act this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.