Reading Tests Find Fourth-Graders Stalled

By Billups, Andrea | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

Reading Tests Find Fourth-Graders Stalled


Billups, Andrea, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The nation's fourth-graders made no substantial progress on federally mandated reading tests during the Clinton administration, according to results of a report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education.

From 1992 to 2000, the average scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading exams remained "flat," according to results from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). Students in 2000 scored the same - 217 on the 500-point tests - as they did in 1992.

Worse still, the gap between the nation's best readers and its most struggling readers continues to widen, with students who scored in the top 10 percent of the exams increasing their average score from 261 to 264, while those in the bottom 10 percent fell from 170 to 163.

The achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students also persists, the report found. White students posted average reading scores of 226 in 2000, while blacks averaged 193 and Hispanics 197.

Education Secretary Rod Paige was blunt in reacting to the NAEP scores.

"These results are not good enough," Mr. Paige said. "After decades of business-as-usual school reform, too many of our nation's children still cannot read and too many of them have been left behind."

Mr. Paige also rejected the suggestion that social factors were to blame for the dismal results of students, particularly those who are poor and minority.

Plenty of good schools, he said, have overcome those issues and are "sailing on reading."

"We can no longer use the social experiences or conditions of children as an excuse for the low performances of children," Mr. Paige said. "After spending $125 billion of Title I money over 25 years, we have little to show for it."

Mr. Paige said President Bush's proposed budget triples the federal investment in reading programs over three years, with $5 billion aimed at ensuring that all children can read by third grade.

That grade level is a critical juncture for young students, who must put early reading skills to use by the fourth grade to be able to understand complex subjects like math and science.

"Early is better," said Reid Lyon, a nationally recognized reading researcher from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development who supports President Bush's reading goals. …

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