Oregon Students Beat National Averages

Article excerpt

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

Oregon fourth- and eighth-graders scored slightly better than the average on this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in reading and math.

The NAEP - often called "the nation's report card" - is viewed as the most accurate and objective national assessment of student achievement state-by-state and also aims to track changes in performance over time.

The tests are given on a rotating basis to random, representative groups of students in all 50 states - approximately 343,000 students in all, about 3,000 of those in Oregon. Schools and students are not identified in the report, and those schools never see the results.

Oregon has participated in some NAEP exams since 1990. Exams in various subjects have been given since 1969, but this was the first year that all states were required to participate in the reading and math tests under President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Those tests now will be given every two years.

The biggest gains this year both nationally and here were in fourth-grade math. Since 2000, the last year a math test was given, fourth-grade math scores recorded a 12-point jump, with 77 percent now scoring at basic level or above.

The jump was even bigger in Oregon: 14 percentage points. That pushed up the percentage of Oregon fourth-graders scoring at the basic level or higher to 79 percent, above the national average.

"Well, the first thought is there's been a focus on that, and it's making a difference in instruction," said Bill Auty, director of assessment at the Oregon Department of Education.

Oregon students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 also showed progress on the math multiple choice and math problem-solving tests given as part of the annual Oregon Statewide Assessment earlier this year. On the math multiple choice exam, 78 percent of third-graders, 76 percent of fifth-graders, 59 percent of eighth-graders and 45 percent of 10th-graders met standards this year.

Gains on the NAEP math test - which looks at measurement, geometry and spatial sense, data analysis, statistics and probability, and algebra functions - were slight among Oregon eighth-graders. Seventy percent scored at the basic level or above, compared to 68 percent nationally.

Scores on the fourth- and eighth-grade reading exams were similar to those from 2002, the last year that test was given. Sixty-four percent of fourth-graders and 74 percent of eighth-graders scored at the basic level or higher. …