Performance in Reading and Math Declines on 1999 Criterion-Referenced Tests as Average Remains Below Proficiency Standard

October 17, 1999
Student performance in mathematics and reading, on average, declined on the 1999 Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRTs), administered last spring to students in grades three through eight. The average percentage of students who met the proficiency standards decreased or remained the same in every grade except one, and that single improvement reflected a one-point gain on one exam.

An average of 58 percent of students systemwide met the proficiency standard in mathematics, a decrease of two percentage points over the previous year. An average of 70 percent of students systemwide met the reading proficiency standard, a drop of one percentage point from 1998.

"Certainly, the flatness of the scores demonstrates the need to invigorate our educational program in the manner outlined by the Board of Education's recently adopted academic priorities," said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a report to the Board of Education this week.

The proficiency standard in both mathematics and reading is 650, with a score of 800 or above considered a level of distinction. The current goal is to have 75 percent of students reach the standard.

The results also reflected a continuing gap between the achievement of African American and Hispanic students and the achievement of white and Asian students. In mathematics, in all grades except grade seven, Asian and white students were about two to eight percentage points from meeting the school system's goal. By contrast, African American and Hispanic students were 39 to 52 percentage points from the goal. In grade seven, 77 percent of Asian students scored at or above the proficiency level, exceeding the goal.

In reading, except for Asian students in grades four and seven, Asian and white students met the goal at all grade levels. African American and Hispanic students were 23 to 34 percentage points below the 75-percent goal.

The median performance by national percentile ranks also fell in reading by five to six percentage points in every grade except sixth and eighth, where they remained the same.

Since 1994, there has been no significant improvement in average performance on the CRTs in reading, and the results have remained essentially flat in mathematics since the tests were revamped in 1997.

Systemwide, every grade level except six and seven (with results the same as last year) declined one to four percentage points in mathematics. In reading, all grades except six and eight dropped by one to two percentage points. In grade six, students achieving the proficiency standard rose by one percent, the only improvement of any grade in either reading or math. In grade eight, 71 percent of the students reached the proficiency standard, the same as last year.

Parents of students in grades three through eight last year were sent a detailed report last week on the CRT results. The report displays data from each year of the six-year-old assessment initiative, when available, allowing parents to see their children's progress from year to year. The report also contains a comparison to other students in the same grade at the school and across the system. Because the reading test is nationally normed, the report includes a national percentile rank comparison for reading.

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