Kansas, Missouri reading scores outpace national average

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Educators in Kansas and Missouri say an increased focus on reading is paying off for students, with fourth- and eight-graders in both states outpacing the national average last year on a reading test.

The test results, which were released Thursday, indicate that both Kansas and Missouri had some top 10 scores.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress provides the only state-by-state comparison of educational progress in various academic areas.

Fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-graders took the tests, but individual state's scores weren't released for seniors.

More emphasis has been placed on the test because a new federal law, called No Child Left Behind, requires every state's students to take the national tests beginning this year.

The tests have three scoring categories: basic, proficient and advanced. For Kansas and Missouri, eighth-grade reading was a highlight, particularly in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels.

Missouri tied for the eighth-best score in the percentage of eighth-graders scoring at the advanced or proficient levels.

In Missouri, the percentage of fourth-graders scoring at the proficient or advanced levels jumped from 28 percent to 32 percent. The percentage of proficient or better eighth-graders rose from 28 percent to 33 percent, one of the largest increases in the nation.

"We are pleased to see that Missouri's scores continue to improve, and we remain above the national average," Deputy Education Commissioner Orlo Shroyer said.

The national report highlighted Missouri as one of just three states in which white and black eighth-graders increased their average scores.

Meanwhile, Kansas education officials are concerned that the test score gap widened between students receiving federally subsidized lunches and those who do not.

Since the national assessment tests in reading were first given in 1992, the average fourth-grade score in the nation has risen slightly, eighth-grade scores have climbed and 12th-grade results have noticeably declined.

Overall, less than one-third of fourth-graders and eighth-graders showed in 2002 that they could understand and analyze challenging reading material. Among seniors, 36 percent were considered proficient or advanced, but that was down 4 percentage points from 1998.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said he was delighted that the gap between the scores of white fourth-graders and black and Hispanic fourth-graders had narrowed. Yet, he said he was stumped by the declining high school scores.

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