Idahos undistinguished showing in a national assessment might foreshadow what the state will learn when its students take new achievement tests based on tougher Idaho Core Standards in two years.
Results released Thursday from the high-standards 2013 National Assessment of Eductional Progress show that about a third of Idahos fourth- and eighth-graders were proficient in math and reading last school year.
Between 30 percent and 40 percent of students might be at grade level when the state administers its first test based on the new Common Core standards in 2015, said Tom Luna, state superintendent of public instruction.
The NAEP, also called the Nations Report Card, is an exam given every two years to a sampling of students in each state and Washington, D.C. Its the only exam that gives Idaho a chance to compare how its students are doing to other students around the nation.
Idahos brightest spot: The percentage of Idaho eighth-graders proficient or better in reading exceeded the national average.
About 38 percent of Idaho eighth-graders were proficient or above in reading, ahead of the national average of about 34 percent and in a league with 17 other states, including Utah, Colorado, Washington and Montana.
But the states fourth-graders failed to break through the middle pack of states whose proficiency levels in reading were not much different than the nation as a whole.
In math, Idaho eighth-graders scored about at the national proficiency level.
Results showed no significant change in Idaho students average scores from the NAEP test in 2011.
Among Idaho fourth-grade readers, 32 percent were below basic, which essentially means they are not reading on grade level.
Idahos earlier lackluster fourth-grade reading scores already were prompting discussions among businesses and education advocacy groups about ways to improve reading to better prepare students for success in school and the workplace.
Idaho Business for Education and other sponsors, including the Idaho Statesman, are holding a one-day summit Nov. 15 bringing local and national experts together to discuss how the state can improve reading skills among young people.
Across the country, the vast majority of students still are not demonstrating solid academic performance in either reading or math, according to Thursdays NAEP results.
Just 42 percent of fourth-graders and a little more than a third of eighth-graders scored proficient or above in math. In reading, just more than a third of fourth- or eighth-graders hit that mark.
White students nationwide outperformed their Hispanic and black counterparts, reinforcing just how tough it is to close achievement gaps among racial groups despite years of focus on the problem.
Arnie Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, described gains in this years assessment as modest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts