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.”

Do your homework

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede