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Oklahoma shows mixed results on student testing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahoma's fourth graders showed improvement in math scores, but the number of Oklahoma students proficient in math and reading fell short of the national average on a federal test known as the nation's report card.

The number of Oklahoma eighth graders reading at a proficient level dropped from 2003, while math scores for the same students remained about the same.

The 2005 scores come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal test taken in the spring that is considered the best measure of how students in every state perform on core subjects.

Released Wednesday, the results will be widely used as a way to measure whether the country's emphasis on math and reading _ fueled by President Bush and Congress _ is working.

In Oklahoma, between 2,500 to 2,700 students in fourth and eighth grades participated in the test, representing about 265 public schools, according to the state Department of Education.

State Superintendent of Schools Sandy Garrett said that while there is always room for improvement in test scores, she is pleased that Oklahoma students did not lose ground when compared to the national average.

``If you think about this, we've been doing a really good job with the resources we have,'' Garrett said. ``We're certainly not at the national average in terms of expenditures or revenues per student, we're 50th. And in teacher salary we're also very low.''

Oklahoma's fourth-grade students showed some improvement, with the number of students proficient in math increasing from 21 percent to 26 percent. The number of students at advanced levels also increased from 1 percent to 2 percent. The state still fell short of national averages of 30 percent proficiency and 5 percent at the advanced level.

Reading scores for Oklahoma fourth-graders remained virtually the same as 2003, with just a slight increase in the number of students at a basic reading level. The percentage of Oklahoma fourth-graders at proficient and advanced levels still remained below national averages.

Oklahoma students on average did not gain ground on their national counterparts, but Garrett said she was particularly pleased with the results for Oklahoma's minority and low-income student groups.

Those student groups achieved higher scores and exceeded national averages on fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math tests.

``All three major minority groups in Oklahoma surpassed the national average on the foundation skill of reading in Grade 8 _ the gateway to high school,'' Garrett said. ``American Indian students did particularly well _ achieving their highest scores ever at Grade 4 and 8 while surpassing the national average scale scores on both the reading and math tests.''

Garrett also pointed out that more low-income students tested in Oklahoma compared to the national average, with fourth-grade Oklahoma students in that category posting its highest ever score on the math test and exceeding the national average.

Compared to other states, Garrett said Oklahoma also excludes from testing fewer students with disabilities and for whom English is a second language, which could have an impact on overall scores.

``Although this is a sampling with varying exclusion rates among the states, we are still proud that our minority and low-income students are making statistically significant gains,'' she said.
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