Mo. fourth-, eighth-graders hold steady in some subjects, slip in others, according to assessment

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In another recent roundup of progress reports, Missouri students stayed on track with previous years in some areas and faltered slightly in others.

The results released last week from a nationwide test conducted every two years showed Missouri fourth graders' abilities in reading and eighth graders' abilities in math slid since 2009.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is a continuing assessment of what students know and can do in various subject areas including mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history, according to the National Center of Education Statistics, which reports the assessment's results.

The nation -- represented by 422,000 fourth-graders and 343,000 eighth-graders -- posted the highest scores to date in both math and reading in both grades this year. Overall, the state and nation have shown significant academic progress in NAEP results reported over the past two decades.

The assessment does not provide scores for individual students or schools, but it does report results by selected large urban districts.

Missouri commissioner of education Chris Nicastro said in a release that while disappointed with the set-back this year, the state is committed to student success. Missouri has set a goal to be among the top 10 academically by the year 2020.

"The NAEP report confirms to me our state's urgent need to raise the bar academically and to focus on results," she said. "Too many students are not learning and progressing as they should in the most basic subjects."

The NAEP assessment of mathematics, reading and science was conducted nationwide during the first quarter of 2011 and included a representative sample of 6,000 Missouri students in fourth and eighth grades. The science results will be released in the spring.

Missouri has fared better in other educational assessments in 2011. An assessment conducted on the number of students in the state taking the SAT showed a 4 percent increase this year, halting a five-year decline in participation, according to DESE. Average scores for the state's college-bound seniors, however, dropped slightly. However, according to DESE, Missouri students' mathematics and reading scores on the SAT have grown and are now 15 to 16 points higher than in 2001.

More students at the high school level are also taking Advanced Placement tests. According to DESE, the most recent numbers from the 2010-2011 Student Achievement Report show that in the past five years the number of AP exams taken by Missouri students has increased by more than 40 percent. Students also scored higher on exams, signaling that more are earning college credit after taking advanced courses while in high school.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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