Md. students' reading scores flat on national test

4th- and 8th-graders show little increase in two years

March 25, 2010|By Liz Bowie | liz.bowie@baltsun.com

Maryland's fourth- and eighth-grade scores on a national reading test have improved little in the past two years, according to the results released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The fourth-grade scores went up 1 point and eighth-grade reading went up 2 points on the 500-point scale of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card.

The Maryland State Department of Education views the results as another indication of continued progress.

"The evidence is pretty conclusive that we continue to have improvement in areas that we need it the most," said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the department.

He pointed to the overall rise in scores over a period of years. For example, test scores have increased by 6 points between 2005 and 2009.

"Maryland's improvement has been twice the national average," he said.

The state's scores are higher than the national average as well.

However, others point to the failure of the state's schools to reduce the achievement gap between white and black students as well as for those who are economically disadvantaged. Matthew Joseph, executive director of Advocates for Children and Youth, said the results show that the gap between the performance of poor children and others widened. He also said that the state test is easier than NAEP, which is the only national test that can be used to compare student achievement across state lines.

The scores in the state and across the nation are considered low, and many educators saw the stagnation of results nationally as a failure of the No Child Left Behind law. Nationally, struggling readers did gain more than top readers. But math scores on the same test that were released last fall showed much more improvement.

In Maryland, 70 percent of fourth-graders were reading at or above basic; 37 percent were at or above proficient; and 11 percent were at advanced. In eighth grade, 77 percent were at or above basic; 36 percent at or above proficient; and 4 percent at advanced.

The scores were not broken down by school district.

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