Thursday, October 20, 2005

California Ranks Low In National Test Scores

The major Sacramento newspaper had this story about NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, results. And California doesn't look so good.

When it comes to mastering reading and math skills, California's students lag behind their peers across most of the country, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress released Wednesday.

The test, often called the nation's report card, has been around for decades. This is the second time that every state has been required to participate under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Administered to fourth-and eighth-graders every two years, the assessment is now seen as a key indicator of No Child Left Behind's progress.

Taken by 660,000 pupils nationwide, the exam shows California's fourth-graders ranked 44th in math and 48th in reading. The state's eighth-graders fared even worse: 44th in math and 49th in reading. Nationwide, 36 percent of fourth-graders have achieved proficiency in math, compared to 28 percent in California.

Of course, since NAEP isn't aligned to California's standards, some, like Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, want to make excuses. But hold on.

"NAEP is not directly aligned to any state standards," said Ali, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based group that works to improve minority and low-income student achievement. "But it is regarded by experts nationwide as an assessment of the common sets of skills that students should be able to master no matter what state they live in."

Good that someone isn't buying the "we don't like the results so they must not be valid" mantra.

Then there's this.

While California does have a higher proportion of English learner and low-income students, who traditionally score lower on standardized tests, the state's white and affluent students didn't fare much better, Ali pointed out. For example, California's white eighth-graders only outperformed their peers in New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana.

We can do better.

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