Test scores show state students still at bottom

The Associated Press
Friday August 03, 2001

SACRAMENTO — California’s fourth- and eighth-graders, including students who must take the state’s new graduation test, scored near the bottom again in the latest national math test released Thursday. 

The sobering results of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress in math, known as the nation’s report card, came despite years of concentrated education reforms and billions of dollars spent on public schools. 

Only 15 percent of California fourth-graders and 18 percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the proficient level in 2000. That was an improvement from 11 percent and 17 percent in 1996, but below the national averages of 25 percent for fourth-graders and 26 percent for eighth-graders. 

State fourth-graders scored 214, up from 209 in 1996, but well below the national average of 226. Of the 40 states that gave the test, only Mississippi scored lower. The perfect score was 500. 

State eighth-graders had a score of 262, down from 263 four years before and below the national average of 274. Of 39 states participating, only Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico had lower scores. 

However, state education officials quickly cautioned that many of the math-related changes are just starting to take effect and probably won’t be reflected until the next NAEP math test in 2004. 

“The report card released by NAEP today shows that California schools, teachers, parents and students have a lot of work ahead to improve student achievement and reach the higher standards we have set,” said Kerry Mazzoni, education secretary for Gov. Gray Davis, who made school improvements the focus of his first two years in office. 

Mazzoni noted that the test was given in February 2000 to 1,750 fourth and eighth graders in this state, before the Davis-proposed spending of $298 million to train math teachers and before the approval of tough new math books last winter. 

State school Superintendent Delaine Eastin also said the state has “a lot of work to do,” particularly for minority and poor students. 

However, she said California’s NAEP scores are “artificially deflated” because more non-English-speaking students are included here than elsewhere in the country. 

California’s sample included 27 percent limited-English-proficient students in fourth grade and 19 percent in eighth grade, compared with 6 percent and 4 percent nationally. 

In addition, 49 percent of California’s tested students in fourth grade were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with 35 percent nationally. 

Eastin said she was pleased that fourth graders, who have benefitted from smaller class sizes in their first four grades, improved their score. She also pointed to modest improvements for minority students. 

The eighth-graders who lost ground are the class of 2004, the first who must take the state’s new high school test to graduate. That test covers language arts and math, including algebra and statistics. 

Eastin says the test shows more focus and resources are needed for middle schools, such as smaller class sizes, additional after-school or summer classes and higher salaries for qualified teachers in poor schools. 

On the Net: NAEP results: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard