Springfield State Journal Register

October 20, 2005

Students improve slightly in math
State's eighth-grade reading scores drop


WASHINGTON - Illinois students improved only slightly in math over the past two years, while eighth-grade reading scores took a slight dip, according to federal test results released Wednesday.

Overall, the state scores showed little improvement since the last test in 2003, which indicated about 70 percent of the students weren't proficient in math and reading.

However, the latest results show that Hispanic eighth-graders in the state are narrowing the gap with whites in both math and reading.

The 2005 scores are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally mandated test, and will be used to measure the success of the 2002 No Child Left Behind legislation.

State School Superintendent Randy Dunn called the test "a rigorous assessment for students in Illinois and throughout the nation" that allows the state to measure its progress against other states.

In Illinois, 32 percent of fourth-graders and 28 percent of eighth-graders were scored at or above the "proficient" level in math - the same as the last round of testing in 2003. In reading, 30 percent of the state's fourth-graders and 31 percent of the eighth-graders achieved the proficient level.

Illinois students scored about the same as in 2003 in both math and reading with the exception of a slight drop in eighth-grade reading scores.

In math, Illinois' fourth-graders had an average score of 233 out of 500, the same as in 2003. The score is lower than 33 other states and lower than the national average of 237. Illinois' eighth-graders' average score of 278 increased by one point over 2003, but not a statistically significant amount. It is lower than those in 25 other states.

In reading, Illinois' eighth-graders' average score dropped to 264 from 266 in 2003, making it one of seven states with lower scores. While higher than the national average of 260, it was lower than 17 other states. The state's fourth-graders scored 216, close to the national average of 217, and lower than 27 other states.

But Illinois officials noted that the gap between low-income and higher-income fourth-graders narrowed from 35 points in 2003 to 32 points this year.

In Illinois, eighth-grade Hispanic students narrowed the gap in math scores from 30 points in 2003 to 24 points in 2005. Black eighth-graders continued to score 40 points lower than whites in math. In reading, Hispanic eighth-graders reduced the gap with whites from 26 points in 2003 to 19 points in 2005.

Nationally, fourth-graders' math scores were up for every racial and ethnic group since the last test in 2003. The gap between white and black student scores was narrower than in any previous assessment year, according to the report. In eighth grade, the white-Hispanic gap narrowed in both math and reading.

The percentage of all fourth-graders who performed at the "proficient" level in math increased from 32 percent in 2003 to 36 percent in 2005, according to the report. Among eighth-graders, 30 percent reached the proficient level, up from 29 percent.

Reading scores nationally increased slightly for fourth-graders and decreased slightly for eighth-graders.

There are no sanctions tied to state performance. No individual student or school scores are reported. The test is aimed at highlighting trends that will help policymakers assess the quality of education in their state.

The states' results can be affected by whether they include students with disabilities and English language learners. About 660,000 students took part, but each student only took a portion of the test.