>>SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Although Indiana fourth- and eighth-graders outscore the national average, results released Wednesday by the National Assessment of Education Progress on reading achievement show Hoosier students have not shown statistically significant improvement in more than 15 years.
“I’m proud of Indiana students for outscoring most of their peers across the country, but our scores have demonstrated only minimal growth over the years and I’m worried about this lack of progress,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said. “Thirty percent of Indiana’s fourth-graders and 21 percent of our eight-graders were unable to demonstrate a basic level of understanding as defined by NAEP. These percentages have changed little over the years, and that’s just not good enough.”
However, area school officials are hoping to stop that trend by starting a variety of reading intervention programs as well as full-day kindergarten.
Superintendent Monty Schneider, with West Clark Community Schools, said his district is implementing a number of measures, including Systems 44 and Read 180, both reading-intervention programs, in addition to having instructional coaches to help teachers grow and improve.
West Clark also is one of many school districts that is also offering full-day kindergarten.
“We are just finishing our second year of full-day kindergarten and we feel like that’s going to show some improvement in our reading scores,” he said.
Greater Clark County Schools started a new system this semester that teaches children how to determine which level they are at in reading and math to make them self-assessors.
“The research is very clear. If you know how to grade your own material, you become a much better student and you have the ability to know where you are and [how to] get better,” said Superintendent Stephen Daeschner.
He said students are shown examples of various levels of achievement and given the standards that they need to reach for each. He said that encourages them to strive to get to the next level.
Greater Clark also started Read 180 last year in hopes of helping struggling students. Daeschner said the results are already in.
“We’ve got very, very good data that indicates that the majority of our kids made more than one year of growth for one year in school,” he said.
Daeschner added that the district also has full-day kindergarten, but not in all schools. He said he’d love to have it available to everyone, but the funding isn’t there.
Even with all the changes, school officials say results don’t happen overnight.
“I think it’ll take time,” Daeschner said. “We’re getting better and better ... I guarantee our kids are better writers and doing mathematics better.”
The nation’s average scores didn’t change much either. Indiana’s fourth-graders moved from 221 to 223 from 1992 until 2009. The nation scored 215 and 220, respectively. For eighth grade in Indiana, the scores went from 265 in 2002 to 266 in 2009. The nation went from 263 to 262.
However, some states did see significant growth.
The Indiana Department of Education pointed out that while Indiana and Florida are similar in scores, Florida has made progress over the years. The IDOE said that Florida’s fourth-graders gained 18 points from 1992 to 2009, compared to two points gained by Indiana’s fourth-graders.
In 2009, Florida’s fourth-graders not only caught up to Indiana’s, but also outscored them by three points.
“Indiana may rank above the national average, but how long can our students maintain that position if they fail to make gains? Our goal must be continual improvement,” Bennett said. “I have no doubt Florida’s progress has been due to the aggressive reform efforts there, including early-literacy assurances and a strong focus on strengthening reading instruction.
“As Indiana begins to implement similar initiatives, I’m confident our students’ performance will grow by leaps and bounds in every subject area.”
• The National Assessment of Education Progress tests a representative sample of students from each of the 52 states and jurisdictions. The test was administered to 168,800 fourth-graders and 161,700 eighth-graders nationwide. Since the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, states have been required to participate in the NAEP mathematics and reading assessments every other year or risk losing Title 1 funding. Science scores from this year’s test will not be released until later this spring, after developing the new cut scores.
Indiana’s participation in NAEP preceded the No Child Left Behind Act, and the state has taken part in NAEP voluntarily since the 1990s. The test is composed of multiple-choice, short constructed-response and extended-response questions. Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” the assessment allows educational comparisons between the states and the nation.
For more information, go to www.nationsreportcard.gov