In 2007, America’s fourth-grade students posted the highest average reading scores in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” according to results released on September 25. The same was true in math, as both fourth- and eighth-graders had average mathematics scores that were higher in 2007 than in any other assessment year. However, eighth graders’ reading scores, while one point higher than in 2005, were still one point lower than the average score in 2003. In addition, nearly 70 percent of all eighth-grade students failed to score as being able to read proficiently or better.
Appearing at an elementary school in New York City, President Bush seized on the report card’s results to tout the No Child Left Behind Act. “The No Child Left Behind Act is working. I say that because the Nation’s Report Card says it’s working,” Bush said. “Scores are improving, in some instances hitting all-time highs. Children across America are learning. The achievement gap that has long punished underprivileged students is beginning to close.”
Although the achievement gap in reading is indeed beginning to narrow slightly between white students and their black classmates, there is still a long way to go, as evidenced in the charts below.
In fourth-grade reading, white students outpaced their black classmates by 28 percentage points in 2007, a decrease of only 1 percentage point. At the eighth-grade level, the achievement gap also narrowed by 1 percentage point, but white students continued to score 27 percentage points higher in reading than black students in 2007. Meanwhile, the achievement gap between white students and Hispanic students in fourth and eighth grade did not move.
The report card finds a similar achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent classmates. At the fourth-grade level, students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch scored 27 percentage points below their classmates who did not qualify for the program, no change from 2005. In eighth grade, however, the gap between students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and those who were not actually increased, from 23 percentage points in 2005 to 24 percentage points in 2007.
In math, the results were better, as an upward trend in the average score continued at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels. In fourth grade, the average score was two percentage points higher than in 2005 and fourteen percentage points higher than in 2000. In eighth-grade, the average score was two points higher than 2005 and eight points higher than in 2000.
Complete results from the math and reading tests are available at http://nationsreportcard.gov/.
Give Kids Good Schools/Lights On Afterschool
The week of October 15–21 is Give Kids Good Schools Week, part of a national public education campaign launched in 2006 by the Public Education Network (PEN) that seeks to provide Americans with the information and resources they need to take action in their communities to improve their public schools. During the week, PEN’s local education fund members and Give Kids Good Schools partners will host events and activities.
In the middle of the week, on October 18, the Afterschool Alliance will hold Lights On Afterschool, which calls attention to the importance of afterschool programs for America’s children, families, and communities. The Afterschool Alliance launched the campaign in October 2000, and it has grown quickly—this year one million Americans are expected to participate. Nationwide, one in four youth, or 14.3 million children, are alone and unsupervised after school. Afterschool programs keep these kids safe, help working families, and inspire learning. They also provide opportunities to help young people develop into successful adults.
More information on Give Kids Good Schools Week is available at http://givekidsgoodschools.org.
More information on Lights On Afterschool is available at http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/lights_on/index.cfm.