Saturday, July 16, 2005

Measurement and Accountability in Schools Fix Problems

Younger Students Show Gains in Math and Reading : "America's elementary school students made solid gains in both reading and math in the first years of this decade, while middle school students made less progress and older teenagers hardly any, according to test results issued today that are considered the best measure of the nation's long-term education trends.

Nine-year-old minority students made the most gains on the test, administered by the United States Department of Education. In particular, young black students significantly narrowed the historic gap between their math and reading scores and those of higher-achieving whites, who also made significant gains.

Older minority teenagers, however, scored about as far behind whites as in previous decades, and scores for all groups pointed to a deepening crisis in the nation's high schools.

Nine year old students born in the mid-1990's, on average, earned the highest scores in three decades, in both subjects.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attributed the gains among elementary students to President Bush's school reform law, No Child Left Behind. Sounding jubilant, she also credited the nation's teachers, principals and state and national policymakers, including Democrats who have supported the federal law.

"I'm really excited, it shows that we're on the right track, that N.C.L.B. is working, that all our attention to the early grades and to minority kids - now we've got some good results to show for it," Ms. Spellings said. "As a country we're headed in the right direction.

Several groups that have criticized the federal law, including both national teachers' unions, said that increased teacher training and efforts to reduce class sizes as well as a proliferation of early childhood and kindergarten programs should also be credited for the gains.

No Child Left Behind, which has required states to test students grades three through eight in English and math every year, and to report minority scores separately from student averages, first took effect in fall 2002."

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