By Glenn Collins
Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM
MONTGOMERY -- In 2007, Alabama made history by making higher gains in 4th Grade Reading than any other state in the nation and in the history of National Assessment of Educational Progress' state-level reading assessment. Now, the recently issued NAEP report indicates Alabama’s 4th Grade readers are maintaining the gains previously made in reading advancements and 8th Graders are continuing to improve.
State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said the 2009 NAEP score of 216 in 4th Grade Reading is evidence the past gains confirmed sustained improvement. “We’ve always known that improving reading was going to be a challenging task. What is important to notice is that the new data proves the gains we have made are not an anomaly; they would have been validated by the state holding its ground even if the circumstances were identical,” Morton said. “However, the fact that the NAEP standards have been raised and we still match 2007’s scoring in 4th Grade Reading and are up three points in 8th Grade Reading is simply more indication that we are consistently moving in the right direction.”
Haleyville Schools Superintendent Clint A. Baggett echoed Morton's sentiment and added, "We must continue to challenge our students to do better and challenge ourselves to render better instruction." School-specfic scores are not avaiable.
The 2009 NAEP report shows Alabama’s eight-point gain in Grade 4 remains steady. The 2009 framework for the assessment used more high-quality literature and a broader range of text types to challenge students than it did in 2007. This included poetry as well as assessing vocabulary in a new way, showing that students understand meanings in a passage. The new framework asked students to draw conclusions and evaluate the quality of arguments.
The 8th Grade Reading scores in Alabama increased three points, in what NAEP officials consider a "statistically significant improvement."
The nation increased only one point during the 2007-2009 period. Increased scores were seen Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah.
In 2002, the difference between Alabama and the national average in 4th and 8th Grades was 10 points. Alabama has closed that gap considerably. In 2009, the national average for 4th Graders was only 4 points off. The 8th Grade gap has also reduced to a seven point difference.
Morton said the NAEP results are indicative of the effort that has gone into making reading a top priority in Alabama education. “Reading is the cornerstone to all learning. Solid reading and comprehension abilities are essential to excel in math, science, the arts – all other areas of understanding,” Morton said. “Effective programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) combined with the will of teachers, administrators, parents and students, can make Alabama a national leader in reading reform which, in turn, positively affects academic progress in other areas as well.”
Results are reported by average scale scores. NAEP assesses a representative sample of students in Grades 4 and 8 from each state every two years.