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NATION’S REPORT CARD: Reading Scores Flat for Fourth Graders; Eighth Graders Improve by One Point

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“After modest gains in recent years, fourth-grade reading scores are flat and eighth-grade scores were up just one point. The achievement gap didn’t narrow by a statistically significant amount in either grade. Like the NAEP 2009 math scores released last fall, the reading scores demonstrate that students aren’t making the progress necessary to compete in the global economy. We shouldn’t be satisfied with these results. By this and many other measures, our students aren’t on a path to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Reading scores for eighth-grade students climbed one point while the reading performance of fourth-grade students was unchanged from 2007 according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading, also known as The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2009. The report also finds that only 32 percent of the nation’s eight graders read at a proficient level, which demonstrates ‘solid academic performance,’ while 25 percent of eighth graders read below the basic level.

“Today’s results once again show that the achievement of American students isn’t growing fast enough,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “After modest gains in recent years, fourth-grade reading scores are flat and eighth-grade scores were up just one point. The achievement gap didn’t narrow by a statistically significant amount in either grade. Like the NAEP 2009 math scores released last fall, the reading scores demonstrate that students aren’t making the progress necessary to compete in the global economy. We shouldn’t be satisfied with these results. By this and many other measures, our students aren’t on a path to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Trend in Fourth- and Eighth-Grade NAEP Reading Average Scores

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“To have nearly 70 percent of the nation’s eighth-grade students performing below the proficient level during a time when all students need to graduate career and college ready is unacceptable,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The federal government must recognize the need to assist literacy efforts from kindergarten through high school instead of essentially focusing only on the early grades. As the Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, it should include the LEARN Act, which was introduced last year and would help ensure that children from birth to grade twelve have the reading and writing skills necessary for success in school and beyond.”

Although achievement gaps between minority students and white students continue to narrow, large gaps continue to exist. White eighth-grade students had an average score of 273 out of 500, compared to 246 for African American students, representing an achievement gap of 26 points, one point smaller than in 2007. Hispanic eighth graders had an average score of 249, making the white-Hispanic achievement gap 24, also one point smaller than in 2007.

At the state level, nine states boosted the scores of their eighth-grade students while scores were unchanged in the other forty-one states and the District of Columbia. Leading the charge were Connecticut and Kentucky, each showing five-point improvements in their eighth-grade reading scores, followed by Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, and Utah, which boosted their scores by four points. New Mexico and Pennsylvania saw three-point increases, and Alabama raised its score by one point.

Read the complete report at http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2009/.

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