[Offtopic] US Grades Rise, but Reading Skills Do Not
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Feb 26 01:17:02 EST 2007
At 04:42 PM 25/02/2007, Robyn writes:
> I'm sure I'm not the only one sitting here scratching my head
> at those figures .. 40% of (Year 12 US-students) can't convert
> a decimal to a fraction? .. our pollies should be able to see that
> the quality of teaching provided by the vast majority of Australian
> teachers is delivering the goods. Have a great week. Cheers Robyn
Yes, these US results are certainly heart-breaking, but also as you say
encouraging regarding our Ed systems. It would be of some interest to
conduct the same English / Maths tests with Australian senior students.
Here's Friday's New York Times article regarding the new US reports:
Grades Rise, but Reading Skills Do Not
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
Published: February 23, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 High school students nationwide are taking seemingly
tougher courses and earning better grades, but their reading skills are
not improving through the effort, according to two federal reports
released here Thursday that cite grade inflation as a possible explanation
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam commonly known
as the nations report card, found that the reading skills of 12th
graders tested in 2005 were significantly worse than those of students in
1992, when a comparable test was first given, and essentially flat since
students previously took the exam in 2002.
The test results also showed that the overwhelming majority of high
school seniors have not fully mastered high-school-level math.
At the same time, however, grade-point averages have risen nationwide,
according to a separate survey by the National Assessment, of the
transcripts of 26,000 students, which compared them with a study of
students coursework in 1990.
Theres a disconnect between what we want and expect our 12th graders to
know and do, and what our schools are actually delivering through
instruction in the classroom, David W. Gordon, the superintendent of
schools in Sacramento, said at a news conference announcing the results.
The reports offered several rationales for the disparity between rising
grade-point averages and tougher coursework on the one hand and stagnant
reading scores on the other, including grade inflation, changes in
grading standards or the possibility that student grades were being
increasingly affected by things like classroom participation or extra
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is considered the
yardstick for academic performance because it is the only test taken all
across the country. The test of 12th-grade achievement was given to a
representative sample of 21,000 high school seniors attending 900 public
and private schools from January to March 2005.
It showed that the share of 12th-grade students lacking even basic high
school reading skills meaning they could not, for example, extract data
about train fares at different times of day from a brochure rose to 27
percent from 20 percent in 1992.
The share of students proficient in reading dropped to 35 percent from 40
percent in 1992. At the same time, the gap between boys and girls grew,
with girls reading skills more than a year ahead those of boys.
In math, only 23 percent of all 12th graders were proficient, but the
exam has been revamped, so the results could not be compared with those
from earlier years, officials said. The new test has fewer questions
requiring arithmetic and more using algebra and geometry. Some 39 percent
of 12th graders lacked even basic high school math skills.
These results came about even though the separate study of transcripts
showed that 12th graders in 2005 averaged 360 more hours of classroom
instruction during their high school years than students had in 1990.
Their overall grade-point average was 2.98 just shy of a B. That was one-
third of a letter grade higher than in 1990. The share of students taking
a standard curriculum or better, intended to prepare them for college,
jumped to 68 percent from 40 percent.
In math, girls had higher grades than boys, and closed the achievement
gap, scoring about as well as boys did on the national assessment. Boys
who had taken advanced math and science courses, however, scored higher
than girls who had also taken such courses.
The Bush administration, which has been pressing to expand testing in
high school under the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, seized
upon the results as proof that high schools were not measuring up.
The consensus for strengthening our high schools has never been
stronger, Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education, said in a
statement released in advance of the report. Schools must prepare
students to succeed in college and the 21st-century work force.
Just how students can be getting better grades in classes that are
supposedly more challenging yet lag in reading may become clearer in the
future. Mark Schneider, the commissioner of the National Center for
Education Statistics, the branch of the Education Department that
administers the exams, had also collected a warehouse full of course
descriptions, reading lists and textbooks to investigate the actual
content of classes students are taking.
The Education Trust, a nonprofit group representing urban schools,
attributed the disparity to a kind of academic false advertising, saying
that schools may seem to offer the same courses to all students, but that
the content of those courses is sometimes less demanding for poor and
For example, the group found, a ninth-grade English teacher at one school
assigned students a two- to three-page essay comparing the themes of
Homers Odyssey to those in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? At
the same school, assignments in another class covering the same material
were considerably less demanding. There, students broke up into three
clusters, with one designing a brochure for Odyssey Cruises, another
drawing pictures and the third making up a crossword using characters
from the Odyssey.
Just slapping new names on courses with weak curriculum and ill-prepared
teachers wont boost achievement, Kati Haycock, the Education Trusts
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