On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education released the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress. The “Nation’s Report Card” showed that Montana 4th and 8th grade students are slightly above the national average when it comes to math and reading proficiency. State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen says that is great news, but she says there is always room for improvement.

“I am specifically looking at middle school math,” Arntzen said. “We had less participation in 8th grade than we have had before. We need to increase student engagement. We are also looking at professionally developing teachers to make sure that they understand what math in middle school really looks like. We are also looking at our preservice teachers and our deans of education. We are having a real frank talk with them on how we are building our math teachers for that next group of students that are here in Montana.”

Arntzen says scores in Montana remain higher than the national average, but some are trending in the wrong direction.

“Our middle school reading and math scores are declining,” Arntzen said. “We need to make sure that our eighth graders, as they enter into High School, have all the support they need. Professionally developing our teachers and making sure our teacher leaders know that this is an emphasis, is something we are providing at the state agency.”

Montana’s scores are based on 301 schools that were chosen to participate.

In grade 4 for Montana, there is no statistical change between 2017 and 2019 in the math and reading categories with composites of 241 and 222 respectively (on a 500-point scale). Those scores are down from highs of 244 in math and 227 in reading in 2007. The national averages for 2019 are 240 in reading and 219 in math.

In grade 8 for Montana, there are slight decreases from 2017 in both the math and reading categories. The composite for math is 284, down from 286 in 2017 and a high of 293 in 2011. The composite for reading is 265, down from 267 in 2017 and a high of 273 in 2011. The national averages for 2019 are 281 in math and 262 for reading.