41% of Md. 8th-graders can't do basic math

April 09, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Forty-one percent of Maryland eighth-graders cannot do mathematics considered basic for their grade level, says a federal report released yesterday.

The 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that U.S. students have improved at math since 1990, but four out of 10 still cannot handle basic grade-level problems.

The report, known as the "mathematics report card," was based on scores by 250,000 students in grades four, eight and 12 at 10,000 public and private schools and was compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Scores for eighth-graders in Maryland rose in 1992, from 261 to 264 on a scale of 500, but that increase is not considered significant.

"It's one more piece of evidence that we need to be doing a better job in the area of math with all students," said Larry Chamblin, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

"Maryland scores did go up by 3 points but the statisticians tell us that increase wasn't enough to be statistically significant because of the size of the sample."

One piece of good news: Maryland students who scored well did slightly better than the national average for top students.

This is the second time the report card has given a state-by-state breakdown for eighth-graders and the first time it has provided such data on fourth-graders. Although 12th-graders were included in the survey, their performance was not broken down by state, said Mr. Chamblin.

Students in 44 states, territories and the District of Columbia were tested in five categories: geometry; data analysis; statistics and probability; algebra and functions; and numbers and operations.

Nationally, the average score for eighth-graders rose from 262 to 266.

For fourth-graders, the national average was 217, and in Maryland, 216.

Compared to Maryland's eighth-grade scores in 1992, 13 states scored higher, eight were lower and 22 states scored about the same.

Mr. Chamblin said the report card showed a link between higher scores and what a child does outside school: spending more time on homework, watching less TV and reading at home.

Another finding: Lack of teaching materials is associated with lower test scores and is a growing problem here and across the country.

In 1990, 21 percent of the Maryland teachers surveyed said they didn't have enough materials; in 1992, 34 percent reported that problem.

Nationally, the percentage rose from 31 to 33 percent over two years.

In 1990 and 1992, nationally and in Maryland, white eighth-graders had a higher average score than did African-American or Hispanic students.

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