Reading Scores Stall
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Reading scores for American children have barely budged over the past two years, a new federal report says, an assessment U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls sobering.
Scores for fourth-graders nationwide were flat between 2007and 2009, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, often referred to as the Nation's Report Card. For eighth-graders, reading scores improved by one point on a 500-point scale. Students in grades 4 and 8 take reading and math tests every few years to produce the reports. The tests are not pegged to state curriculums, which makes them a useful reference point for researchers who want to compare progress across states.
Rhode Island, Kentucky and the District of Columbia are the only three jurisdictions to see improvements in fourth-grade reading, while scores in Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico and Wyoming dropped, according the report. Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah posted increases in their eighth-grade reading scores.
Reading performance has improved only slightly since the 2002 enactment of the No Child Left Behind law, despite the infusion of billions of dollars into early reading programs, according to The Washington Post .
"We've had a real focus on reading and we're stuck," Susan Pimentel, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests, told the newspaper. "I think students aren't reading enough. And I think they aren't reading enough of the good stuff."
By contrast, an earlier report looking at math scores during that same period showed gains at both grade levels, The New York Times reported.
The latest data comes as the Obama administration and members of Congress are working to rewrite the law in a way that gives schools more flexibility. States have also come together to tighten their graduation standards. Earlier this month, the National Governors Association released a blueprint for a new set of common graduation standards agreed upon by 48 states and the District of Columbia.
"Today's results once again show that the achievement of American students isn't growing fast enough," Duncan said in a statement . "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 in the workplace."