NAEP Scores Show Improvement In Mathematics
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
A new review of U.S. student achievement shows that elementary and secondary school students have steadily improved in mathematics since National Assessment of Education Progress tests were first administered in 1973. The gains began in the 1980s and were maintained in the 1990s, the review shows. It also examined student progress on reading and science, but the mastery of those subjects was not as great as that of math. "NAEP 1999 Trends in Academic Progress" was produced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the research wing of the U.S. Department of Education.
U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley said the trends show that "today's students are on the same field with students from 30 years ago, and the results may surprise a few cynics: Today's students do better. Critics of public education would have you believe that reports like this are full of arrows and lines pointing down. In fact, for the 9 major categories since 1971, scores have fallen significantly in just one category (science)."
The review shows both improvement and backsliding. Reading skills improved for elementary students in the 1990's, but high school scores dipped. Likewise, science was off to a rough start in the 1970s and slipped again in the 1990s.
Congressman Bill Goodling, who chairs the Education Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, found the results disappointing and said progress has been "essentially flat."
"How can it be that our children are still lacking in basic and essential skills? We live in an information and high tech age, but many of our students cannot read, solve simple math problems, or understand basic science concepts. Every parent should be concerned by these results," the Pennsylvania Republican said.
NAEP is the closest thing the United States has to a national test. Congress has continually banned a mandatory national test over the issue of local control of schools. The recent increase in student testing has been handled at the state level and varies across the nation.
Since 1973, when the first NAEP test was given to students aged 9,13 and 17, states have had the option to choose to participate. Reading, mathematics and science have been the traditional subjects NAEP has concentrated upon, but tests are also offered in civics, the arts and writing.