According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tested fourth- and eighth-graders, state reading and math scores were higher than the state's 2007 results, but statistically unchanged from the last test in 2009.
In California, about 25 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders received proficient scores in reading this year, according to the study. Roughly 34 percent of fourth-graders and 25 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in math.
The total scores ranked California 46th out of 52 states and jurisdictions in student reading and math performance. Scoring lower were Tennessee, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and, in last place, the District of Columbia.
Nationally, 34 percent of students in both grades were proficient in reading. In mathematics, 40 percent of fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient in 2011.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson this week praised the scores, while continuing his call for more financial support for schools.
"Our students are still making progress, even as they swim against a riptide of crowded classrooms and deep budget cuts to our schools," Torlakson said. "Asked to do more with less, students, teachers, school employees and administrators have delivered. Imagine how much more they could accomplish – and how many more students would share in this progress – with the resources they deserve."
The test results also show the state's Hispanic eighth-graders have narrowed the differences between them and their white peers. Out of 500 total points, this year's Hispanic eighth-graders scored 245 on the reading section. When compared with white students' 2011 score of 268, this represents a gap of 23 points, which is 7 points closer in performance than the two groups were in 1998.
Known as "The Nation's Report Card," the test is conducted biennially. This year's scores were derived from tests of about 209,000 fourth-graders and 175,000 eighth-graders.
A "basic" score in the review suggests a partial mastery of the necessary knowledge and skills; a "proficient" score represents solid academic performance. The highest score, "advanced," equates to superior performance, according to the study.
For the math portion, students answered questions designed to measure their knowledge and abilities in the areas of number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra. The reading test was based on questions measuring a student's ability to interpret and understand a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, and persuasive and procedural writings.
Reading and mathematics results for certain large urban districts are expected to be released later this year. Results from the 2011 science assessment are expected to be released in spring 2012.
Read more California investigative reports at CaliforniaWatch.com.