Maine students scored at or slightly above the national average on a recent test of national student achievement, but gaps remain among certain student populations, including minority students and the economically disadvantaged.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, released Wednesday, show Maine students scored at or slightly above national average scores for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math.

Across the country students’ reading scores were slightly down while fourth-grade math scores improved but eighth-grade math scores declined.

The test, administered to a sample population of students across the country every two years, is also called “The Nation’s Report Card” and is considered a benchmark for comparing student achievement between states. Results are not released for individual students or schools.

“Approximately 12 percent of our fourth and eighth grade students participated in the NAEP assessment this year, ranking in the top 10 nationally for both fourth grade and eighth grade reading, and 11th and  15th for grade 4 and grade 8 mathematics, respectively,” the state Department of Education said in a statement. “The NAEP, like all standardized assessments, offers a small, point-in-time glimpse into student performance, and we will include this information as we routinely examine data from a variety of sources.”

The test is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics within the U.S. Department of Education and was given to 8,900 students in Maine between January and March. Nationally, about 300,000 students were assessed in math and about the same number in reading.


In math, 42 percent of Maine fourth-graders who took the test scored at or above proficiency this year, compared to 40 percent of students nationally. Thirty-four percent of the state’s eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency, compared to 33 percent across the country.

In reading, 36 percent of Maine fourth-graders scored at or above proficiency, compared to 34 percent nationally. Thirty-six percent of the state’s eighth-graders were at or above reading proficiency, compared to 32 percent nationally.

For both fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and math, Maine’s average scores met or exceeded national averages:

  • Students in Maine scored on average 241 out of a possible 500 points on the fourth-grade math test, a point above the national average.
  • For fourth-grade reading, Maine students scored 221 compared to an average score of 219 nationally.
  • In eighth-grade math, Maine students scored an average 282, compared to 281 nationally.
  • For eighth-grade reading, Maine students scored an average 265, compared to 262 nationally.

The results also break out scores for certain student groups, including those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of poverty. Of the 180,512 students enrolled in Maine schools, about 44 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

The gap in scores between students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and those who don’t remains significant and did not fluctuate much from 2017.

On this year’s test, fourth-grade students who did not qualify for free and reduced-price lunch scored an average of 21 points higher on math and 22 points higher in reading than those who did.


Among eighth-graders, there was a 25 point gap in math and an 18 point gap in reading between the two groups.

The test also reflects a gap in scores between white students, who make up about 90 percent of Maine’s student body, and black students, who make up less than four percent.

On fourth-grade math, black students scored on average 24 points below their white peers and 19 points lower on reading.

The gaps between minority and economically disadvantaged students and others exist for a host of reasons and mirror comparable scores around the country, said Flynn Ross, chair of teacher education and associate professor at the University of Southern Maine.

Reasons include segregation, lack of access to housing, and education and health and transportation issues.

Flynn also served as an adviser for Educate Maine’s 2018 Education Indicators report, which looked at data including previous NAEP results to show where Maine students stand and where more time and resources should be invested.

Among other things, the report showed a growing number of economically disadvantaged students in Maine, despite an overall drop in student population over the last decade.

“To have an increasing number of students of poverty and stable achievement means we’re doing really well,” Flynn said. “Keeping achievement similar while educating students who have greater and greater needs means our schools are doing really well.”

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