MEDFORD, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Surrounded by students and teachers at Medford High School, Governor Deval Patrick announced today that Massachusetts students lead the nation in English and Math performance on the 2009 Grade 12 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s report card.

The first-ever state-specific Grade 12 NAEP results showed that the Commonwealth’s students tied for first in the nation on both the English and Math exams. Massachusetts was one of 11 states to participate in a pilot to receive state-specific grade 12 results. The other states are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

“I am proud of the performance of our students, and today’s announcement reaffirms our position as a national leader in education,” said Governor Patrick. “We will continue on this path of success and increase our efforts to ensure all students are prepared for the rigors of college and a future in the workforce.”

“Massachusetts students continue to outpace their peers in other states because of their hard work and the efforts of their teachers,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “These results should provide a baseline for future work and also encourage students to remain focused so they can excel and achieve academic success.”

More than 6,000 students from 94 high schools participated in the exams. Massachusetts students also ranked or tied for first nationwide in both grades 4 and 8 on the English and Math exams in 2009.

According to the results, Massachusetts students had the highest scaled score in the nation on the reading test and tied for top performance with New Hampshire, Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey while outperforming Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

A total of 46% scored Proficient or higher in reading, compared to 37% for the nation. Despite this success, achievement gaps persist. A total of 50% of White students and 55% of Asian students scored Proficient or higher compared to 21% of African American students, 21% of Hispanic students, 23% of low income students and 16% of students with disabilities.

Massachusetts students also had the highest scaled score in the nation on the math test and tied for top performance with New Hampshire and Connecticut while outperforming Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

A total of 36% of all students scored Proficient or higher in math, as compared to 25% for the nation. Achievement gaps were evident on the Math test as well with 40% of White students and 50% of Asian students scoring Proficient or higher, compared to 9% of African Americans, 12% of Hispanics, 17% of low income students and 12% of students with disabilities.

The achievement gaps reflected in the Grade 12 NAEP results differ vastly from those on the state’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). In fact, according to MCAS results released by Governor Patrick in September, African American students have narrowed the achievement gap with white students slightly in ELA at grades 3, 5 and 7, and in Math at grades 3, 7, 8 and 10. Hispanic/Latino students have narrowed the gap with white students in ELA at grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10, and in Math at grades 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10. The state is making steady progress in reducing achievement gaps on the statewide exams and is committed to helping all students reach proficiency.

“We are very proud that our students continue to score right at the top of this important national assessment,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “At the same time, I am concerned that by grade 12, not enough students are reaching the proficiency bar. We will track these results closely in future years to gauge improvements in student achievement, and to determine areas of strengths and weaknesses for our high school seniors.”

The Patrick-Murray Administration is focused on defining and measuring college readiness to ensure that students who graduate from high school are prepared for college. The work includes a collaboration between the Boards and Departments of Elementary and Secondary and Higher Education to align expectations and curricula and promote professional development for high school teachers consistent with the work of higher education faculty and staff. The Governor’s Achievement Gap Act legislation singed in January includes provisions to more immediately turn around underperforming schools and promote innovation in education, and is already helping to facilitate changes in districts across the state.

“Our work is focused on increasing academic expectations for what students need to learn to be ready for college not just to graduate from high school,” said Education Secretary Paul Reville. “This includes promoting better communication between high schools and college campuses and expanding our support for students.”

Students at Medford High School have recorded significant growth in student performance on the MCAS exams with over 80% of students reaching Proficiency and higher on both the English and Math exams and nearly 70% of the Science test – large increases from last year. The school has undertaken a comprehensive approach to teaching, learning and support for students including opportunities for peer mentoring, access to Advanced Placement and Honors courses, a strong emphasis on data informed instruction, options for students who need extra help through extended class periods in specific subjects, partnerships with Tufts University and Bunker Hill Community College, and a district-wide initiative to improve literacy and writing across the curriculum