While commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress or “NAEP” assesses student knowledge in “math, reading, and other subjects” and has been “viewed as a credible national measure of academic progress.” Last week’s release of NAEP test scores reflect a dismal outlook for Georgia students.

Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said that the national scores were not encouraging and represent an unexpected downturn.

The percentage of Georgia fourth graders reading at a proficient level fell one point from 2013 to 33 percent. Making sure students improve their reading efficiency is a must. If a child is struggling with reading by the time they reach the fourth grade, their ability to learn new concepts and subjects is hindered, and they fall behind in other key areas where reasoning and logic are required.

For eighth grade students, the percentage of students scoring at a proficient level decreased to 30 percent from 32 percent in 2011. Students in the eighth grade must be able to read and comprehend different “works of fiction and nonfiction,” analyze information from different mediums and be able to interpret their findings and present them in a clear report.

For mathematics, fourth grade is when students are not just learning concepts, but are learning to problem-solve. The number of fourth graders who scored proficient in mathematics fell four points to 34 percent in 2015. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that “state education officials were particularly concerned about the four-point drop in fourth-grade math, and planned to refocus efforts on getting students better prepared in ‘foundational’ work.”

Eighth grade mathematic proficiency also decreased in 2015 to 28 percent (from 29 percent in 2013).

Georgia’s proficiency scores put the state on par with Arkansas and South Carolina, with only a point or two difference between the states. Most Southeastern states scored below the national average with the exception of Florida, which scored above the national average in both fourth and eighth grade reading. Florida is also home to the most robust school choice program options in the nation, allowing parent to choose the best learning environment for their children.

For several years Georgia students have fallen short of the national average education scores. Students are falling behind and parents need additional options and resources to put their children in the education environment that best fits their learning needs. Georgia currently has some limited choice programs, but expanding choice – through ESAs or other school choice programs – is the only way to put Georgia students first.

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