Are Vermont students making the grade?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The latest round of standardized testing for Vermont's middle-schoolers is in and while Vermont scored higher than most states across the country, the report raises some red flags. Our Calvin Cutler has a look at the scores and what they say.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress just released the results from this year's reading and math standardized tests.

Students overall scored higher than the national average except for grade four math. On average this year, Vermont fourth-graders scored a 239 in math based on an overall scale of 500. That's just a point below the national average but two points lower than 2017.

In reading, Vermont fourth-graders are three points better than the national average with 222, but again there is a drop from the 2017 average of 226.

For grade eight, Vermont scored a 287 for math. That's seven points better than the national average but slightly lower than 2017 when it was 288.

In reading, it's a similar story. Vermont kids are six points better than the national average at 268, but they have fallen back from the 2017 scores of 273.

That downward trend is concerning for state education leaders.

State leaders say the results paint a concerning picture of education.

The test is administered every year across the country to fourth- and eighth-graders.

Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French is calling on districts across the state to pay attention to the results and focus on reading and math. In a statement released to WCAX News, French said: "This year's NAEP scores paint a concerning picture for Vermont. Many of these metrics have been declining for years now, and while Vermont students are still performing above the national average, we clearly have more to do as a state to ensure our students are prepared for success."

Officials also say that that math scores have been on the decline since 2003.

In recent years, standardized tests have been under scrutiny with some questioning their effectiveness.

The Vermont Agency of Education says that since the tests are a state average, we should be cautious before jumping to conclusions about why we're seeing lower scores.

We reached out to the Agency of Education to talk about the new scores but we weren't able to get an interview.

In the coming months, education officials will talk with school districts about how to address the problem at its root. They say they'll use these test scores as a learning experience in moving forward. They also say that they're going to explore focusing on literacy to improve student scores.

In New Hampshire, fourth-graders scored five points above the national average on the National Assessment, as their scores stayed pat at 245 from the 2017 report on Grade 4 Mathematics.

Granite State eighth-graders had similar results, scoring six points above the national average at 287. However, scores dipped six points from the state's last report.

Fourth-graders enjoyed above-average scores in reading, as well. They came in at 224, five points above the national average but down five points from the state's scores in 2017.

New Hampshire's eighth-grade reading scores followed the formula of above-the-national-average scores at 268, but they were still down from the previous report.