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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nation's Report Card: Midwest Leads Reading Results

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Education Department reports reading skills haven't improved across the U.S. since 2002, but there is evidence Midwestern 12th graders who took the test scored better than students from other sections of the nation. For example, 84% of the region's kids were able to correctly read a bus schedule. They had to answer a multiple choice question about a metro transit system's fares after studying a brochure or Metro Guide. Their comprehension -- and these kids were in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan etc. -- blew away the rest of the country.

The percentage of correct 12th grade responses was 78% in the South, 75% in the Northeast and 71% in the West. So who says the Rust Belt is filled with underachievers? The question was what time did reduced fares go into effect. The answer was 7:30 p.m., and students had to read through the brochure to find it.

Overall, the National Assessment of Education Progress -- aka the nation's report card -- shows the school reform efforts that have gotten a lot of talk this decade have yet to produce any results. About 21,000 high school seniors took the test at 900 schools in 2005. The data was released today.

"Performance of the nation's 12th graders reading has declined in comparison to 1992; moreover it has shown no significant change from the last assessment in 2002. This was seen in overall scores for literary informational and functional reading contexts. In 2005, scores for both white students and black students were lower than in 1992, and there was no significant change in the performance gap. Female students outscored male students by a wider majority than in 1992," the report said.

Math performance could not be compared because of changes in how the assessment was administered, but 61% were at or above proficient.

In Columbus this week and last, there has been a lot of verbiage given to improving math, science and engineering abilities among Ohio students. But in the old 3Rs -- readin' and writin' always came before 'rithmetic. Einstein had one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, but he would never have amounted to beans as a physicist if he couldn't read the works of scientists who went before him, then write and compose his own thoughts cogently for others to see, challenge, examine and check.

The reading achievement levels are supposed to represent what 12th graders should know, including drawing conclusions. A full-text version of the report is HERE.

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