Despite a new federal educational testing law championed by the Bush administration, scores among fourth and eighth graders failed to show any improvements in reading, and showed only slow gains in math nationally during the past two years, according to a study released today.
Most troubling for educators are the sluggish reading skills among middle school students, which have remained flat for 13 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has been testing students for three decades and bills itself as the “nation’s report card.”
There is no rationale on eighth-grade reading other than we are not making progress,” said Darvin M. Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the testing.
Fourth-grade reading scores nationally showed a modest one-point gain over the past two years, after demonstrating a significant six-point jump between 2000 and 2002, before the No Child Left Behind law was implemented. Only three states showed a significant gain in fourth-grade reading — and three states showed a significant drop. The District, Virginia and Maryland all posted gains.
“Let’s put it this way,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “reading scores were flat and math scores on the rise before No Child Left Behind, and reading scores are flat and math scores are still up after No Child Left Behind. It’s impossible to know whether NCLB had an impact — either positively or negatively.”
This is an encouraging report. Thank you for coming, Madam Secretary, because it shows there’s an achievement gap in America that is closing; that minority students, particularly in fourth grade math and fourth grade reading are beginning to catch up with their Anglo counterparts. And that’s positive, and that’s important. It shows that a system that measures and focuses on every child is a system that can help us, and achieve a goal that we really want in America, and that is every child learning to read and no child — and add and subtract, and no child being left behind.
This is an important yardstick; it’s an important measuring tool. It will allow states to compare how they’re doing with their neighboring states, for example.
And so, Madam Secretary, thanks for coming. Appreciate you delivering the report. No Child Left Behind is working.
SECRETARY SPELLINGS: Thank you, Mr. President.