By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - While students in most states showed improvement on a national test, Missouri held steady in some areas and lost ground in others.
The results released Tuesday from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is conducted every two years, show the nation's fourth- and eighth-graders are doing the best ever in math. In reading, eighth-graders showed some progress.
But in Missouri, the average math score for eighth-graders in 2011 was 282 on a scale of 0 to 500. That's down four points from 2009, when the state made big gains. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education noted in a news release that the state lags the nation in the percent of math test-takers enrolled in Algebra I in the eighth grade - a class that leads to higher scores.
At the fourth-grade level, the average math score was 240, almost identical to the 2009 score of 241.
In reading, eighth-graders held steady with a score of 267, while fourth-graders dropped four points to 220.
"The NAEP report confirms to me our state's urgent need to raise the bar academically and to focus on results," said Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro in a news release. "Too many students are not learning and progressing as they should in the most basic subjects."
The Missouri scores were above average in eighth-grade reading, and similar to the national averages in the other areas. But Missouri has set a goal to be among the top 10 states academically by the year 2020.
"We can't be satisfied with this performance," Nicastro said. "Average is not good enough to support the future economic growth of our State and, most importantly, the future of our children."
A representative sample of 6,000 Missouri students in fourth and eighth grades took the test earlier this year. The science results will be released in the spring.