Oklahoma Has Mixed Results On National Report Card

Tuesday, September 25th 2007, 1:57 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-grade public-school students taking a national assessment test are catching up to their counterparts in other states but still lag behind the national average in math skills, according to results released Tuesday.

State eighth-grade students also are slightly behind national average in reading skills as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was administered to more than 702,000 fourth- and eighth-graders between January and March of this year. About 2,800 of those were from Oklahoma.

Oklahoma fourth-graders improved their reading scores since 2005, when the test was last administered, but still remain below the national average.

The test scores will be scrutinized by policymakers and educators looking for signs of whether the No Child Left Behind education law is working. The goal of that five-year-old law is to get all kids performing math and reading skills at their proper grade level by 2014.

The national assessments are sometimes referred to as ``The Nation's Report Card'' and provide a uniform way to compare student progress across state lines.

``NAEP is unlike any other assessment in which Oklahoma participates,'' state Superintendent Sandy Garrett said. ``It is a challenging exam that requires essay and short-answer responses. NAEP results can be helpful in pinpointing areas for additional instructional focus.''

Oklahoma's average reading score among fourth-graders taking the NAEP test in 1992 was 220 out of a possible 500, but is 217 this year. Oklahoma is the only state in which reading scores among fourth-graders taking a national assessment test have fallen over a 15-year period, but state education officials said that is a statistical misnomer, because not all states participated in the test in 1992. The first year all states did so was in 2003.

The 217 average score is three points higher than in 2005, but is behind the national average of 220. Oklahoma's current average score ranks 36th nationally.

The average score of Oklahoma's eighth-graders this year was 260, the same as in 2005 but below the 265 recorded in 1998. Oklahoma was one of seven states to record a statistically significant drop from 1998 to 2007.

The national average reading score for eighth-graders is 261.

Among state fourth-graders, 26% are proficient or better at reading, while another 38% met basic requirements. Twenty-six percent of eighth-graders were proficient or better, with another 46% at the basic level.

The news was more encouraging for Oklahoma students in math, as the state was one of 14 to have posted gains among both fourth- and eighth-graders since 2005. The fourth-grade average score rose from 234 to 237, while the national average went from 237 in 2005 to 239 now.

Oklahoma also made up ground at the eighth-grade level, with its average score rising four points to 275. During the past two years, the national average rose from 278 to 280.

Twenty-one percent of state fourth-graders are proficient or better at math, while another 45% can perform basic work. Among eighth-graders, 33% are proficient or better and 50% are at the basic level.

``Like the nation, we have had dramatic student demographic changes and soon should be a minority-majority state in terms of our student population,'' Garrett said. ``The percentage of our students taking the test who are white has fallen while the percentage of American Indian, Hispanic and low-income test-takers has climbed. It's helpful for us to look specifically at recent years to see if we've been responding effectively to greater and changing demands in the classroom.''

Nationally, math scores for both fourth- and eighth-graders have continued to rise since 1990, the first year the national test was given.

Officials from the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets the policy for the math and reading tests, said the number of students performing at or above the ``basic'' and ``proficient'' achievement levels in math has increased substantially during the past 17 years.

Overall gains in reading scores among fourth-graders since 1992, when that test first was administered, have been more modest, and average reading scores this year are about the same as in 1998.