Oklahoma NAEP scores drop in wake of teacher shortage


OKLAHOMA CITY (April 10, 2018) –  Oklahoma reading scores on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show a reversal of gains made in 2015. With a statistically significant drop of five points, Oklahoma is again below the national average in fourth-grade reading, as it is in the other three subjects NAEP assesses: fourth-grade mathematics and eighth-grade reading and mathematics. 

NAEP scores were released today in Washington, D.C., by the National Assessment Governing Board.

“Our students have not gained academic momentum in the midst of thinning resources and the severe, ongoing teacher shortage. These scores are indicative of the struggles our schools have endured over the past several years,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister

“These results are deeply concerning, particularly given our gains in 2015, although the recent advocacy of grassroots education supporters has resulted in significant legislative action. This additional investment of nearly $500 million in public education in Oklahoma, driven by educators, is a vital step toward reversing funding challenges that have failed to keep pace with student enrollment and need.

“Now that we finally will be able to offer our teachers regionally competitive compensation and have secured dedicated, ongoing funding for our classrooms, I am optimistic we will see positive results if we can sustain this momentum in future years.”    

Unlike in 2015, when the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) was 50 percent funded ($74 per student), in Fiscal Year 2017, the RSA program declined to 37 percent funded ($56 per student) after the Public School Activities line item sustained a $38 million cut. 

“RSA is highly effective when adequately funded. The consequences of not doing so are evident in this year’s scores,” said Hofmeister. “If properly funded, RSA can build literacy momentum through parent engagement and targeted interventions and supports for struggling young readers.”

Oklahoma’s average fourth-grade math score for 2017 is 237, down three points from 2015 and just below the national average of 239.

Oklahoma’s eighth-graders, on average, scored lower than 33 other states/jurisdictions on the reading test, down two points (261) from 2015 (263) and four points behind the national average (265).

In eighth-grade math, Oklahoma maintained its score from 2015. However, it remains below the national average of 282 and is lower than 37 other states/jurisdictions.

But the stage is set for significant improvement, Hofmeister noted.

Since 2015, Oklahoma has implemented more comprehensive academic standards and developed more complex assessments that align with national benchmarks, including NAEP for early grades, with an end goal of college and career readiness for every student.

“It was time to raise the bar and give our students a chance to compete nationally,” said Hofmeister. “But we can't lift student outcomes without well-equipped teachers.”

The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved 1,966 emergency certifications since June 2017. Of those, 522 are for elementary education, grades 1 through 8. During the previous NAEP assessment in 2015, 505 emergency certifications were approved, 113 in grades 1 through 8. 

“While we are grateful for those who have stepped up and filled the gap by becoming emergency certified, many have not received crucial training in child development, classroom management and differentiated instruction. Learning how to navigate classrooms overflowing with children, each of whom possesses unique abilities and challenges, is not something that can be learned on the fly if our goal is to help every child succeed.”

According to a survey by NAEP, 80 percent of Oklahoma teachers in 2017 NAEP-assessed classrooms said overcrowded classrooms are a hardship in their respective schools. Of those, 50 percent said it was a serious problem.

Score Gaps for Student Groups in Oklahoma (fourth-grade reading)

  • In 2017, Black students had an average score 18 points lower than White students.
  • In 2017, Hispanic students had an average score 12 points lower than White students.
  • In 2017, Native American students had an average score 8 points lower than White students.
  • In 2017, female students had an average score 8 points higher than male students.
  • In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-priced school lunches, an indicator of low family income, had an average score 23 points lower than that for students who were not eligible.  

“Our most economically disadvantaged students are falling farther behind,” Hofmeister said. "This is unacceptable; these students need and deserve highly effective teachers in well-resourced classrooms and appropriate supports.” 

Oklahoma’s Native American students, while still scoring above their national counterparts, saw a significant decline in fourth-grade reading scores – down 10 points from the 2015 assessment. Native American scores also dropped slightly in eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math. 

“For our students to be nationally competitive, we must ensure appropriate and sustained education funding. We have seen landmark support from legislators in recent weeks, and with their continued commitment in future years, our public schools will no longer be forced to continue to operate in crisis mode and our students will begin to thrive.

“These scores are stark evidence of the ramifications of the teacher shortage. Make no mistake: Together, we can see future gains in NAEP and other valuable measures of student achievement.”

Federal law requires that states and districts receiving Title I funding test representative samples of students to participate in NAEP reading and math assessments. Approximately 9,300 Oklahoma students in 301 schools were tested between January and March 2017. The results of these tests were reported in the Nation’s Report Card. Oklahoma’s snapshot reports and full results can be found online.

Last updated on April 10, 2018