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Mixed results for city students on national reading exam

Results on a prominent national reading exam are out today and they tell a story that’s become familiar: younger students’ scores are up, but there have been no gains for middle school students.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as NAEP, or the nation’s report card, is given every two years to students across the country. In New York City, 2,300 fourth and 2,100 eighth grade students took the NAEP reading exam last year.

While their peers in New York State have not seen real changes to their reading scores in over a decade, some New York City students saw gains. City fourth graders’ scores have increased an average of four points in the last two years and many more of them are meeting the standards that signal proficiency or basic understanding. In 2002, 48 percent of fourth graders scored basic or above on the exam and in 2009 62 percent were in the range.

The score increases have put New York City on the list of large cities where fourth grade students’ scores rose in the last two years. It’s a short list: Boston, Washington, D.C., and Houston are the other three.

The city’s eighth grade students have not made the same leaps. In 2003, the first year reading data for these students was separated from state-wide data, their average score was 252. Six years later, it’s exactly the same. Atlanta and Los Angeles were the only cities to see eighth graders’ scores rise in the last two years.

Eighth graders’ results on New York State’s own annual reading tests don’t match up with their NAEP scores. According to the state’s tests, city eighth graders’ scores rose 10 points between 2007 and 2009. Fourth graders’ state scores were more in line with their NAEP results, as the state showed them making a nine point score jump and the national exam put the increase at four points.

The difference between the state’s results and NAEP scores is a constant that has gotten more attention in recent years and has forced state officials to call for more difficult tests.

In a PowerPoint Department of Education officials sent to reporters, the city emphasized that its students’ scores have risen while scores across New York State have not, signaling that the wide gap between the city and state is narrowing.

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