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Subject:

NAEP---Two articles---Two sources

From:

Norman Stahl <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 08:03:29 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (199 lines)

Updated: 02:42 PM ESTU.S. students reading skills static, math betterBy Sue
Pleming, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. students have shown no gains in reading skills
since the Bush administration launched its education plan but they are
better at
math, according to the Education Department's "Report Card" released Thursday.
The department's National Assessment of Educational Progress said 2003
reading scores of fourth- and eighth-graders were static from 2002 and one
in three
students in both grades could read at or above a level of proficiency set by
educators. Proficiency is measured by how well the students can interpret and
analyze what they read.

"I am very concerned about the reading results overall," said Education
Secretary Rod Paige. "But I think we have now a turning point and are
moving in the
right direction."

Reading is a focus of the administration's education policy and one of first
lady Laura Bush's special projects. Paige said he expected results would
steadily improve, particularly once early reading programs were fully in place.
But literacy groups said the latest scores showed a need to invest more money
and time in teaching rather than testing, a controversial component of
current education policy that links funding to test scores.

"All too often, politicians want to test rather than invest. Many schools
spend valuable classroom hours testing for every level of government while
yielding almost no data that helps improve instruction," said Lesley Morrow,
president of the International Reading Association, a literacy group.
The average reading score for fourth-graders, who are usually 9 to 10 years
old, was 218 out of 500 points versus 219 points in 2002 and 215 points in
1998.
In eighth grade, when students are usually 13 or 14, they scored an average
263 out of 500 versus 264 in 2002 and 263 in 1998.

LACK OF PROFICIENT READERS
John Stevens, a member of NAEP's governing board, said the goal of making
students proficient readers was a particular challenge and racial and
ethnic gaps
were biggest here. Among eighth-graders, about 40 percent of whites and
Asians read at or above
the proficient level, compared to 13 percent of black students and 15 percent
of Hispanics, he said.

"When students lack this ability at the end of middle school or junior high,
there are bound to be serious problems for them later on and for our efforts
to achieve a more equitable society," said Stevens.

While worried about reading, Paige praised math scores as stellar. "These
results show that the education revolution that 'No Child Left Behind"
promised
has begun," Paige said, referring to the Bush education plan signed into
law in
2002.

In math, 77 percent of fourth-grade pupils had a basic grasp of the subject,
meaning partial mastery of skills needed for solid academic work, against 65
percent in 2000 when the last NAEP test was done in math. In the eighth grade,
68 percent had this basic understanding, versus 63 percent in 2000.
Paige said the achievement gap was closing between white and black students
and poor students had also shown significant improvements in the subject.
The biggest gains were in the lowest 10 percent of students and in three
years the proportion of black fourth-graders reaching a basic level in math
rose
from 36 percent to 54 percent. Among Hispanic students, the proportion
reaching
the basic level rose from 42 percent in 2000 to 62 percent in 2003.
The reading and math studies tested students in all 50 states as well as in
the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and in Defense Department schools.


************************************************************************

Updated: 05:02 PM ESTNational Math Scores Up, Reading HoldsBy BEN FELLER, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's math report card shows promise, with more than
seven in 10 fourth-graders and almost as many eighth-graders now achieving at
a basic level or better.

But enthusiasm over rising test scores is tempered by another figure: More
than two-thirds of the students still can't do math at the level they should,
based on federal standards.

In reading, meanwhile, the performance of students in grades four and eight
largely held steady over the past year, continuing a trend in which math gains
have been more pervasive.

The new findings, based on representative samples, come from the test
considered the best benchmark of progress over time and across the states: the
National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Compared with their peers in 2000, when the math test was last given,
fourth-graders and eighth-graders made sizable gains at every level in
2003, from the
lowest performers to the top achievers. Black and Hispanic students reduced
their performance gap with white students.

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the scores a turning point for the
nation and proof that all children can learn "no matter the color of their
skin or
their ethnic heritage."

Nationwide, 77 percent of fourth-graders reached at least a basic level in
math, meaning they had a partial mastery of skills needed for solid academic
work. That's up from 65 percent three years ago and 50 percent in 1990. Among
eighth-graders, 68 percent performed at basic level or better in math, up
from 63
percent in 2000 and 52 percent in 1990.

The national tests measure more than whether scores are going up or down.
They also shows how students are doing compared with how they ought to be
doing -
a level termed "proficient," which means understanding challenging subject
matter and applying it to real-world situations.

In math and reading, fewer than one in three students achieved the proficient
level. Some critics say the tests' goals are unrealistically high and out of
sync with standards used in international tests. But the bipartisan board
created by Congress to set national achievement levels says they represent
a fair,
challenging goal.

The debate is important because the national test, run by the Education
Department, will now be used to gauge the rigor of education in the states.
To make
sure that happens, every state and the District of Columbia were ordered for
the first time to take part in the test.

Now, every two years, national scores will come out in grades four and eight
for reading and math. If students do well on annual state tests but not on the
national test, states are expected to face greater pressure to explain why.
For example, some states say more than 80 percent of their fourth-graders are
at least proficient on a state math test, yet on the national test, only
about half their students reach that mark. On the other end, some states do
better
on the national test than their own.

"The danger is that we're about to start a debate over who has it right: the
states or NAEP?" said Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, a nonprofit group that
helps states with raising standards and measuring progress. "This is really a
powerful signal to states that the question they need to ask and answer is,
'Do we have expectations that, if met, would leave a high school graduate
academically ready for college or work?"'

Some states gained in an overlooked area: reducing the number of students who
don't even reach the bottom achievement level on the national test, said Ross
Wiener of The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for
poor and minority students. Since 2000, 27 states and the District of Columbia
reduced the percentage of eighth-graders who are below basic in math.

"We know students in that category are at risk of being completely shut out
of many important opportunities," he said. "But we can't become complacent -
this progress demonstrates that public education is capable of doing better."
The reading test ranged from literary analysis to basic daily tasks, such as
asking students to analyze characters, explain essay themes and understand
train schedules. Federal education officials expected little change in reading
because it was tested just last year.

The math test covered such areas as probability, algebra and mathematical
reasoning.

Aldona Skrypa, who's earned national recognition for her elementary-school
math teaching in Madison, N.J., said many teachers are trying creative ways to
engage students in math. She's had success by connecting her geometry lessons
to the real world.

"When I take them out for a walk in town, they'll find parallel and
intersecting lines in buildings; they look at manhole covers and see octagonal
designs," she said. "And when the principal walks in, they'll look at her
earrings and
say, 'Look! The principal has spheres in her ears!"'

On the Net:
National Assessment of Educational Progress:
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/
11/13/03 16:59 EST



Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education
GA 147
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX:   (815) 753-8563
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