Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2009

Fourth-graders' math skills have seen no improvement over the last two years, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released this week. Scores for eighth-graders did improve slightly but not significantly. As a result, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that more needs to be done both to close the achievement gap and improve the overall performance of America's students.

The report, also known as "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2009," studied 168,000 fourth-graders and 161,000 eighth-graders who took part in the assessment, which covered a range of mathematics topics, from algebra and geometry to number properties and operations, measurement, and data analysis, probability, and statistics.

Fourth-Grade Achievement Flat : This year's report showed that for the first time since 1996, fourth-graders made absolutely no progress in math achievement compared with the previous report period (2007). For both years, average scores were 240. (There had been a slowing trend in achievement gains leading up to 2009's results. The gain from 2000 to 2003 was nine points; the gain from 2003 to 2005 was three points; and the gain from 2005 to 2007 was just two points on the fourth-graders' average scores in mathematics.
The results were identical for fourth-graders when grouped by performance level. There was no change from 2007 to 2009 for students who performed at or above proficient level or at or above basic level.
"Today's results are evidence that we must better equip our schools to improve the knowledge and skills of America's students in mathematics" said Secretary Duncan in a statement released to coincide with the report Wednesday. "Our students have made real gains in math over the past two decades, but for the first time since NAEP's mathematics test started in 1990, student achievement in fourth grade has not improved. More must be done to narrow the troubling achievement gap that has persisted in mathematics, and to ensure that America's students make greater gains toward becoming competitive with their peers in other countries."

Eighth-Grade Scores Increase Slightly : Meanwhile, in the eighth grade, test results continued the slow upward trend that began between 1996 and 2000, when scores increased from 270 to 273. Between 2000 and 2003, they increased another five points; between 2003 and 205, they rose just one point; between 2005 and 2007, they increase another two points; and between 2007 and 2009, the rose two points again, topping out at an average score of 283.
The results were similar among the two different performance groups. Those achieving at or above basic level saw their scores increase slightly, as did those performing at or above proficient level.

Duncan said that the overall results call for reform in the way math is taught in K-12 schools. "None of us should be satisfied. We need reforms that will accelerate student achievement. Our students need to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace. These NAEP results are a call to action to reform the teaching and learning of mathematics and other related subjects in order to prepare our students to compete in the global economy."

Further information about the 2009 math results can be found at NAEP's site
here. A complete copy of the full report can be downloaded in PDF form here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Casey and Bella Writing Contest

Below is a recent letter sent by Jane Lovascio, author of the Casey and Bella children's book series. I have been fortunate enough to see this work go from an idea that Ms. Lovascio had about creating an engaging children's book about the adventures of two real characters, Casey a Jack Russell Terrier and Bella a Tea Cup Yorkie. Each book in the Casey and Bella book series donates a portion of proceeds to a not-for-profit charity. She has recenly been featured on both the ABC and FOX television networks. This series combines reading, writing and literacy in a very engaging manner. I strongly encourage you to take a serious look. -Dr. Petrosino

Hello everyone,
My new book, Casey and Bella Go Green, was published this week. If you would like a complimentary copy for your school or library, please respond to this e-mail with your address or contact me at
My new book Casey and Bella Go Green and the Casey and Bella Writing Contest were recently featured on ABC News. Click to view the segment.
The Casey and Bella Writing Contest is a terrific way to inspire your students to write. Last year Autumn, a 4th-grader from NJ, won with her award winning story Casey and Bella Go Green. Her story was chosen, and this week it was published as the next book in the Casey and Bella book series. Her book will be sold at Barnes and Noble. 
On November 12th Autumn and I are having a joint book signing at Barnes and Noble Freehold to celebrate Autumn's success.Casey and Bella Go Green also raises money and awareness for Autism Speaks. Each Casey and Bella book raises awareness for a special children's charity. To see a preview of Autumn's book or to learn about the charities Casey and Bella books support, please go
Below is a testimonial from a literacy coach in NJ.
Jane Lovascio presented an engaging program with a read-aloud, pictures, videos, and much interactive discussion with the students. The students left the assembly with a positive view of what it means to be an author. Since the program, students have been excitedly stopping me in the halls to ask for information about the writing contest and share their ideas for the next Casey and Bella adventure. I would recommend Jane’s presentation to any school desiring to increase motivation and interest in writing. -Mrs. Introcaso
If you would like information about a free author event for your school or library, or information on the Casey and Bella Writing Contest, please contact me. My contact information is below.
Below is the information about my author visits and the Casey and Bella Writing Contest for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. If you send me your school's address, I can end you a Casey and Bella Kit for your schools with complimentary books and activities for your students and school library. 
I speak at schools for about 40 minutes, and I do two kinds of presentations depending on the age group K-2 and 3-6. I do a slide show book reading for the younger grades K-2 and then a slide show of the real characters, Casey and Bella. It is interactive and fun. Click to read information released in a recent newspaper about my author visit or watch a video posted by a school.
The Gloucester Times 
School Presentation video clip
For the older grades 4-6 I do a slide show, but I spend more time speaking about publishing and writing. I use the school's a projector, screen, and microphone, but I bring my laptop.
Casey and Bella is a book series based on two real characters, Casey a Jack Russell Terrier and Bella a Tea Cup Yorkie. Each book in the Casey and Bella book series donates a portion of proceeds to a not-for-profit charity. 
Each year 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders write their own Casey and Bella adventures for the chance to have their story published as the next book in the Casey and Bella book series. The official entry form can be found on along with games and pictures of the characters.  
Casey and Bella Go To New York City, Casey and Bella Go to Hollywood, and Casey and Bella Go Green retail for 15.95 at Barnes and Nobles and Borders, but at schools I charge 12.00, and I sign and paw print stamp the books for the day of the event. 
Click below to see recent news clips about Casey and Bella or go to
ABC News
Please feel free to pass my information along to any of your contacts, especially in NY and NJ where I do free book readings. 

Picture: Author and creator Jane Lovascio and a number of very satisfied readers. 

Education reformer Theodore Sizer dies at 77

'The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.' Theodore Sizer

Sizer was so passionate about teaching that he never really retired, even as cancer ravaged his body, his wife said. He had returned to Harvard as a visiting professor before his death and taken a part-time position at Brandeis University."He did less" teaching, she said, "but he didn't ever stop, really."

Sizer served as headmaster of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., from 1972 to 1981. He oversaw a successful merger of Phillips and Abbot academies as well as the introduction of innovative programs, including a summer outreach program to prepare minority students for careers in math and science.The nation has lost "a great visionary and an innovative leader of education reform," said Barbara Chase, the head of Phillips Academy.

"We always will be richer for what he has left us: a sense of how schools can be their best — centered, rigorous, and most importantly, inspirational places for our young people," Chase said. Sizer served in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer, and he later said the experience influenced his ideas about education.Sizer founded the Coalition of Essential Schools in 1984, which promotes comprehensive reforms envisioned in his book "Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School."

The program began with 12 schools and has grown to include more than 600 public and private institutions. Its principles include having students demonstrate mastery by performing tasks instead of regurgitating what they learned in lectures.The movement also encourages each student to master a limited number of skills and knowledge areas, rather than just covering plenty of content.The program emphasizes that teaching should be personalized and teachers should not be responsible for more than 80 students in a high school or middle school and no more than 20 in an elementary school.

"No federal regulation or court decision or encyclical from a state commissioner can change the colorful, often maddening, ever fascinating, inevitably noisy variety of kids that we teach," Sizer said in 2002. "That variety may be why our work is so hard, but it is also why it is never boring."

The Essential Schools movement also stresses fairness, generosity, tolerance and trust.

"His eloquent and fervent championing of progressive educational ideals has had a profound effect on hundreds of thousands of educators and students," the Coalition of Essential Schools said in a statement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Dr. Petrosino was recently asked by KUT (the Austin, TX National Public Radio affiliate) to comment on a high school in Austin, TX that was ordered closed by the state for low academic performance and is now back up and running with two new schools on its campus. Petrosino was asked to comment about Project Based Instruction- an area of his speciality. 

You can access the short interview by clicking HERE. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Dr. Petrosino was recently asked by National Public Radio to comment on NAEP scores for the State of Texas. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history.

Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. This permits NAEP to provide a clear picture of student academic progress over time.

You can access the radio segment by point your browser to this URL and clicking on the arrow icon. 


Results from the most important nationwide math test tell a good news-bad news story for Texas.

KUT’s Nathan Bernier reports on state scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. You can also read the NAEPreport card and view state level data by clicking HERE