ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s fourth- and eighth-graders each showed improvements in reading compared to results from tests they took two years ago, but eighth-graders performed about the same in math, according to results from the National Assessment of Education Progress released Tuesday.

Under the tests administered by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, Maryland students
performed above the national average.

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In 2009, 37 percent of Maryland fourth-graders scored at or above reading proficiency levels. That improved to 43 percent in 2011. In math, 44 percent of fourth-graders made the grade. That went up to 48 percent this year. Nationally, 32 percent of fourth-graders met the levels in reading and 40 percent in math this year.

For Maryland eighth-graders, 36 percent met reading standards in 2009. In 2011, that increased to 40 percent, compared to 32 percent nationally.

For both 2009 and 2011, 40 percent of eighth-graders met the math standards.

While that’s better than the 34 percent of eighth-graders who met the standards nationally, Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education, said the state needs to do better.

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“Overall the results are strong, but they need to get a lot stronger,” Reinhard said.

Maryland is in the process of changing the state’s math standards.

Maryland, along with the rest of the nation, has ongoing difficulties in closing achievement gaps between black, Hispanic
and white students, Reinhard said.

“All of our scores have been going up, but the gap remains — more so in some areas than others,” Reinhard said.

Reinhard said Maryland’s participation in the federal “Race to the Top” program is aiming to address problems with chronically underperforming schools. The program rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools.

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(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)