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Mark Schneider
Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

National Assessment of Educational Progress
The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Highlights
The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Focus on the Content Areas

March 29, 2007

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Introduction
I am here today to present the mathematics results for Puerto Rico from the 2003 and 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. I am releasing two reports—The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Highlights and The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Focus on the Content Areas. The Highlights report presents an overview of student mathematics performance in Puerto Rico, with comparisons to the performance of students nationally. The second report focuses on Puerto Rico student performance in the five individual mathematics content areas identified in the NAEP framework. A third report, which will be released shortly, The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Technical Report, will contain information about how the two assessments were conducted, differences between the two assessments, and statistical issues in producing the results.

NAEP is a nationally representative survey of academic achievement. Periodically, various subjects are assessed—such as reading, mathematics, and science—at grades 4, 8, and 12. NAEP allows comparisons of student performance in a given year and over time, and it allows for comparisons of student performance in states and jurisdictions like Puerto Rico both to the nation and to each other.

Historical Context
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001, requires jurisdictions that receive federal Title I education funds supporting programs for disadvantaged students to participate in the NAEP mathematics and reading assessments at grades 4 and 8. Student performance on NAEP does not affect Title I funding. Puerto Rico did participate in mathematics in 2003 and 2005. However, Puerto Rico was excused from the NAEP assessment of reading in English because spanish is the language of instruction in Puerto Rico.

NAEP Mathematics Assessment in Puerto Rico
Our assessments of public school students in grades 4 and 8 in Puerto Rico were conducted exclusively in spanish in 2003 and 2005. About 100 schools and about 3,000 students were assessed at each grade. An estimated 73 percent of students in Puerto Rico attend public schools.

According to school records, virtually all students assessed in Puerto Rico are classified as Hispanic. Ten percent of eighth-graders and 13 percent of fourth-graders reported that they came from non-spanish-speaking households.

About 99 percent of public school students in Puerto Rico are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, an indicator of low income.

Comparing Results
In the reports, results for Puerto Rico are compared with our national results for all public school students, and with national results for low-income public school students. "National results" include students in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and students in schools operated by the U.S. Department of Defense.

There were some problems with the translation of the assessment in 2003. NCES addressed those problems in 2005, and also made some changes in administrative procedures. Because of these changes, the 2003 results for Puerto Rico cannot be compared with those for 2005.

2005 NAEP Mathematics Content Areas
The mathematics assessment included questions covering five content areas:

  • Number properties and operations
  • Measurement
  • Geometry
  • Data analysis and probability, and
  • Algebra

A Note About Reporting NAEP Results
NAEP mathematics scores are reported on a scale of 0-500 points; scores are produced for overall mathematics results and for each of the five mathematics content areas. NAEP scores tell us what students know and can do.

Student performance results are also reported according to three achievement levels established by the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. These levels set standards for what students should know and be able to do. There are three achievement levels— Basic, defined as "partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work"; Proficient, defined as "demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter"; and Advanced, which signifies "superior performance." The Proficient level is the desired level of performance for all students.

NAEP results are expressed both as average scores and as percentages of students at or above the achievement levels. All NAEP results—whether scores or achievement-level percentages—are based on samples. This means that there is a margin of error associated with every score and percentage. Differences in scores and percentages must be tested to ensure that they are statistically significant; that is, that they are larger than the combined margin of error.

2003 Score Results
Fourth-graders in Puerto Rico had an average score of 179 on the NAEP mathematics assessment in 2003. This was below both the national average score of 222 for low-income public school students and the average score of 234 for all public school students.

At grade 8, Puerto Rico students had an average score of 212. The national average for low-income students was 258; for all students, 276.

2003 Achievement-Level Results
When we make achievement-level comparisons, 9 percent of Puerto Rico fourth-graders scored at or above Basic, as compared to 76 percent nationally. The "at or above Basic" category includes students at Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

At the eighth grade, 4 percent of Puerto Rico students scored at or above Basic, as compared to 67 percent nationally.

2003 Percentile Results: Grade 4
When examining scores by percentile, consider the scores of low-performing students—those at the 10th and 25th percentiles; those at the mid-level, or the 50th percentile; and those at the higher levels—the 75th and 90th percentiles. Puerto Rico fourth-graders scoring at the 90th percentile had a score of 212, just below the minimum score for Basic. Nationally, students at the 90th percentile had a score of 270, in the Proficient range.

2005 Results
Please remember that the 2005 results cannot be compared to the results for 2003, due to changes in the translation and in the administration of the assessment. There is more information on this issue in the technical report for the Puerto Rico assessments.

2005 Score Results
In 2005, the fourth-grade mathematics average score was 183 in Puerto Rico, below both the national average of 237 and the low-income national average of 225. At grade 8, the Puerto Rico average was 218, also below both the low-income and the overall national average scores.

2005 Achievement-Level Results: Grades 4 and 8
Twelve percent of Puerto Rico grade 4 students scored at or above Basic, compared to 79 percent nationally.

At the eighth grade, 6 percent of Puerto Rico students were at or above Basic, compared to 68 percent nationally.

2005 Results by Content Area
Examining average scores for the individual content areas for grade 4, Puerto Rico students scored below the national average in all five. The score gaps ranged from 39 points in geometry to 60 points in number properties and operations.

At grade 8, Puerto Rico students scored below the national average in all five content areas as well. The score gaps ranged from 49 points in geometry to 76 points in measurement.

2005 Results: Grade 4 Sample Question
As an example, student performance is illustrated in the geometry content area for grade 4. In this sample question, most likely to be answered correctly by students in the Proficient or Advanced range, students were asked to identify the width of a sheet of metal bent into an "L" shape. Students should have realized that the bending depicted in the illustration would not affect the width of the sheet, and thus should have picked Choice B, 6 inches. Sixteen percent of Puerto Rico fourth-graders selected this answer, as compared to 53 percent nationally.

2005 Results: Grade 8 Sample Question
At grade 8, one question asked students to consider a bag of candy that originally contained 10 red candies, 10 blue candies, and 10 green ones. Suppose that 2 blue candies are removed. What is the probability that the next candy taken will be blue as well? Is it 1 in 3? Students were asked to explain their answer.

In fact, the probability is not 1 in 3, or 10 in 30, but 8 in 28, since 2 blue candies have been removed. In Puerto Rico, 1 percent of eighth-graders received full credit for this question, as compared to 17 percent nationally. Ten percent of Puerto Rico eighth-graders received partial credit, as compared to 30 percent nationally.

2007 and Beyond
That concludes my review of the 2003 and 2005 assessment results. Now I'd like to inform you about upcoming assessments in Puerto Rico.

NCES recently finished administering the 2007 mathematics assessment in Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States. We expect to be able to complete the scoring and analysis of the 2007 Puerto Rico assessment more quickly than we did for the 2003 and 2005 assessments. In addition, we anticipate being able to compare the 2007 results with those from 2005.

In 2009, we expect to be able to incorporate results for Puerto Rico into the regular NAEP mathematics report card, which presents results for the nation and the states.

For more information
The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Highlights and The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005: Performance in Puerto Rico—Focus on the Content Areas are available on the NAEP website in both English and spanish versions. A third report, to be available shortly, discusses the technical issues involved in administering the NAEP mathematics assessment in Puerto Rico and analyzing the results. In addition, you can use the web to find background information on NAEP, sample questions, and an online data tool that allows you to do additional comparisons on your own. These tools are available in English only. In conclusion, I would like to thank all those involved in the 2003 and 2005 mathematics assessments in Puerto Rico. In particular, I would like to thank the students and educators of Puerto Rico for participating in these assessments.

Commissioner Mark Schneider's Powerpoint Presentation:
Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico MS PowerPoint (2,089 KB)

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