Sunday, March 4, 2007

Students still lag on reading, math tests - More challenging courses not helping

The following piece appeared in The Birmingham News newspaper. Our public education system is failing our students. More money is not the answer real reform and competition is the only solution.
Without reform we will continue to see lagging scores, reduced literacy rates, billions spent on remedial education at the college level and essentially flat dropout rates.

Students still lag on reading, math tests

More challenging courses not helping
Friday, February 23, 2007
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - High school students are getting better grades and taking more challenging courses, but that is not showing up on national math and reading tests.

"The reality is that the results don't square," said Darvin Winick, chair of the independent National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests. Scores were released Thursday.

Nearly 40 percent of high school seniors scored below the basic level on the math test. More than a quarter of seniors failed to reach the basic level on the reading test.

"I think that we are sleeping through a crisis," said Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll, a governing board member. He said the low test scores should push lawmakers and educators to enact school reforms.

The new reading scores show no change since 2002, the last time the test was given.

"We should be getting better. There's nothing good about a flat score," Winick said.

The government said it could not compare the math results with the previous scores because the latest test was significantly different.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress - often called the nation's report card - is viewed as the best way to compare students across the country because it's the only uniform national yardstick.

The tests were given in 2005. The government released the scores Thursday along with a report examining the high school transcripts of 2005 graduates.

The transcript study shows students are earning more credits, taking challenging courses and getting higher grade-point averages than in the past.

In 2005, high school graduates had an overall grade-point average just shy of 3.0 - or about a B. That has gone up from a grade-point average of about 2.7 in 1990.

It is unclear whether student performance has improved or whether grade inflation or something else might be responsible, the report said.

More students are completing high school with a standard curriculum, meaning they take at least four credits of English and three credits each of social studies, math and science. More students also are taking the next level of courses, which generally include college preparatory classes.

"I'm guessing that those levels don't connote the level of rigor that we think they do. Otherwise kids would be scoring higher on the NAEP test," said David Gordon, a governing board member and the superintendent of schools in Sacramento, Calif.

The study showed no increase in the number of high-schoolers who completed the most advanced curriculum, which could include college-level or honors classes.

On the math test, about 60 percent of high school seniors performed at or above the basic level.

Just one-fourth of 12th-graders were proficient or better in math, meaning they demonstrated solid academic performance.

On the reading test, about three-fourths of seniors performed at or above the basic level, and 40 percent hit the proficient mark.

© 2007 The Birmingham News© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

No comments: