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Little change in state’s NAEP reading scores

Reading test scores for 4th and 8th graders showed no significant change from 2007 to 2009 in 38 states, including Colorado, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Overall, though, NAEP reported that 8th grade reading scores were higher than in 2007 but unchanged for 4th graders.

Colorado 4th graders tested by the program had an average scale score of 226 in 2009, compared to 220 nationwide. In 2007 the Colorado figure was 224 compared to 220. The 226 score was the highest for Colorado (by two points) in eight tests going back to 1992.

In the 8th grade test Colorado students had an average scale score of 266, compared to 262 for the nation. The Colorado score for 2007 was 266; the national score was 261. In five tests going back to 1998 the highest Colorado score was 268 in 2003.

The scoring system has a 500-point scale.

“This represents the hard work of teachers and all parents and others who help students learn this most fundamental skill,” said Colorado education Commissioner Dwight Jones. “Overall these are extremely positive results, but we continue to see a disparity in performance based on race and income and know that the focus on improving reading instruction must continue.”

Scores for 2009 in both grades increased in just one state – Kentucky. Scores increased in one grade only in eight other states. Scores dropped in grade 4 in three states (including Wyoming). In New Mexico scores dropped in grade 4 but increased in grade 8.

Other key results for 2009 were:

  • 67 percent of 4th graders performed at or above the basic level, and 33 percent were proficient or above. That’s unchanged from 2007 but higher than in other previous years.
  • 72 percent of Colorado 4th graders were at or above basic and 40 percent were at or above proficient, higher than percentages for 2007 or any other year.
  • 75 percent of 8th graders scored at or above basic, and 32 percent scored at or above proficient. That’s higher than 2007 and 1992.
  • 78 percent of Colorado 8th graders scored at or above basic, and 32 percent were proficient or above. That’s down slightly from the percentages in 2007 and 2003.
  • The 2009 results showed no changes in ethnic and gender gaps.

The Colorado Department of Education noted these comparisons in the scores:

  • Only four states outperformed Colorado fourth-grade students in scale score (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont). There were 19 states with results that were not significantly different than Colorado and 28 states significantly lower than Colorado.
  • Eleven states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming) and the Department of Defense outperformed Colorado eighth-grade students in scale score; 19 states were not significantly different than Colorado and 20 states were significantly lower than Colorado.

NAEP tests, styled “The Nation’s Report Card,” are administered periodically in eight subjects to representative samples of students in every state, the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools in the U.S. and overseas. The program’s been operating since 1969.

In 2009 178,000 4th graders and 160,000 8th grade students took the tests. Even though the tests aren’t given to all students every year, the NAEP program provides true state-to-state comparisons because participating students take the same tests. State tests such as Colorado’s CSAP are given annually to all students in many grades, but test content and scoring vary by state. Some 2,920 Colorado 4th graders in 154 public schools participated. In grade 8, approximately 2,755 in 121 Colorado public schools took the test.

The tests, including two parts and background questions, took about an hour for each student to complete.

The NAEP program is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

In a statement issued Wednesday, education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “Today’s results once again show that the achievement of American students isn’t growing fast enough. … Like the NAEP 2009 math scores released last fall, the reading scores demonstrate that students aren’t making the progress necessary to compete in the global economy.
“We shouldn’t be satisfied with these results. By this and many other measures, our students aren’t on a path to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace.”

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