Friday, November 15, 2013

Unequal Progress on Standardized Tests

Source: US Center for Education Statistics and NY Times 
A recent story in the NY Times by Motoko Rich entitled "U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains" is worth a read in light of the continuous claims of American education failing and U.S. students falling behind other countries. -Dr. Petrosino

American fourth and eighth graders showed incremental gains in reading and math this year, but achievement gaps between whites and blacks, whites and Hispanics, and low-income and more affluent students stubbornly persist, data released by the Education Department on Thursday showed. The results of the tests — administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card — continued an upward trend in both areas over the past two decades. But still, far less than half of the nation’s students are performing at a level deemed proficient in either math or reading.
“There are some positive results here, which we were heartened to see,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exams. “But places where we had hoped to see improvement, we didn’t.”
Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone briefing that schools were having to expend too much energy to bring underprivileged students up to the level of more affluent peers. He urged more focus on the years before formal schooling begins, citing President Obama’s proposal to help states finance preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds. “Why do we want to stay in the catch-up business?” Mr. Duncan asked. 
The average fourth-grade math score this year was 242 on a scale of 500, up from 241 in 2011, the last time the federal assessment results were released. The average eighth-grade math score was 285, up from 284 two years ago.
In reading, the average fourth-grade score edged up slightly to 222 from 221 two years ago, while the average eighth-grade score rose to 268 from 265. About 400,000 fourth graders and 350,000 eighth graders took the exams; the results represent both public and private schools.

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