State report card not one you would want to share

By Hoppy Kercheval

The latest report card is out for reading and math by fourth- and eighth-grade students in our nation’s public and private schools and it is not one you would be eager to show your parents.

Fourth-graders showed no gains in reading, while fourth- and eighth-graders’ test scores in math were also static.

The lone bit of encouraging news came among eighth grade readers, who showed some improvement.

The results are included in the latest edition of the Nation’s Report Card issued by the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, which compared 2017 scores with 2015.

And once again West Virginia students consistently scored below the national average.

Just 32 percent of West Virginia fourth-graders scored at or above the proficiency level in reading — up 2 percent from 2015, but below the national average of 35 percent. Our fourth-graders scored, on average, 217 out of a possible 500. That’s virtually unchanged from when NAEP results on reading were first released, in 1992 (216).

West Virginia eighth graders also ranked below the national average in reading, with just 28 percent at or above proficiency. That’s a whopping seven points below the national average of 35 percent.

The score means that three out of four West Virginia eighth graders who took the test could not “demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.”

NAEP scores were just as bad in math. Forty percent of fourth graders nationally scored at or above the proficient level; that’s unchanged from 2015. In West Virginia, 35 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in math; that’s two points higher than 2015, but still significantly below the national average.

Nationally, just 33 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in math and, like the fourth graders, that’s unchanged from 2015. Once again, West Virginia scored below the national average.

Our eighth graders scored an average of 273 out of a possible 500 points on the test.

That was nine points below the national average and virtually unchanged since 2007 (270). Overall, just 24 percent of our eighth-graders were math proficient.

Perhaps more disturbing is that in West Virginia, the 10-year trends in math and reading scores have shown virtually no improvement.

Education officials REALLY had to scour the results for positive news.

The National Assessment Governing Board chairman, former Gov. John Engler, of Michigan, said, “I’m pleased that eighth-grade reading scores improved slightly, but remain disappointed that only about one-third of America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students read at the NAEP Proficient level.”

West Virginia School Superintendent Steve Paine also acknowledged the challenge.

“Today’s release confirms what we already know — there is still work to be done, especially in the area of math. These results reinforce the need to attract certified, high quality math teachers throughout the state.”

I’ll go further. These scores are unacceptable and, when viewed over the last decade, they show very little improvement in West Virginia. They are tantamount to a C-minus in a world that demands A-plus work.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at

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