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Report card: State fails to improve

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

U.S. schools were handed the “nation’s report card” Thursday, and, once again, New Mexico’s students remained at or near the bottom in all categories with no sign of improvement.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress – a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Education – tested 377,000 fourth-graders from nearly 8,000 schools and 342,000 eighth-graders from some 6,500 schools in math and reading from January to March. Students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia took the tests.

Nationawide, the scores rose slightly.a00_jd_08nov_ReportCardweb

That was not the case for New Mexico. Both grade levels fared poorly in the two subjects when compared with the nation as a whole. Compared with its scores two years ago, New Mexico’s fourth-grade math and eighth-grade reading results showed no change, while eighth-grade math scores dropped by one point and fourth-grade reading scores showed a two-point drop, which NAEP described as statistically insignificant.

New Mexico’s fourth-grade reading scores tied with the District of Columbia for the nation’s lowest ranking, while its eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math scores were third from the bottom.

Nationally, test results in both subjects and for both grades rose slightly over 2011, the last year the tests were given.

“The 2013 NAEP report card provides encouraging but modest signs of progress in reading and math for U.S. students,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week. He noted that the scores edged up to new highs in both grades.

“It is particularly heartening that reading scores for eighth-graders are up, after remaining relatively flat for the last decade,” Duncan said. However, he cautioned, “Even with the modest increase in math and reading achievement on the 2013 NAEP, U.S. students are still well behind their peers in top-performing nations.”

Larry Behrens, state Public Education Department spokesman, said the results “continue to reveal what we have said from the beginning: New Mexico’s students are paying the price for inaction on school reform.”

The results “support our need to continue to implement education reforms, especially grade 3 reading and ensuring students are reading when they exit the third grade.”

Duncan voiced mixed feelings about a continued achievement gap that shows disparities among students of different racial and ethnic groups. Although students in each racial group showed improvement in some areas, “it is very troubling that achievement gaps between white and black students, and white and Hispanic students, failed to narrow from 2011 to 2013.”

He noted, however, that achievement among Hispanic students – the largest minority group in the nation’s public schools, rose since 2011.

The report does not break down achievement levels among ethnic groups in New Mexico.

Observing that “progress on the NAEP continues to vary among the states,” Duncan said all eight states that had adopted Common Core State Standards at the time of the tests showed improvement in at least one of the reading and math assessments, and none of the eight showed a decline in scores. In New Mexico, Common Core State Standards are being phased in over a three-year period and will be in full effect in 2015.

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