Opinion

Commentary: South making progress on test scores, race gap, but not enough

Seventh graders Tiffany Reynolds and Kenny Littlejohn may be learning on different floors next year at FitzSimons Middle School in North Philadelphia. Some schools have raised test scores by dividing the sexes.
Seventh graders Tiffany Reynolds and Kenny Littlejohn may be learning on different floors next year at FitzSimons Middle School in North Philadelphia. Some schools have raised test scores by dividing the sexes. Jonathan Wilson / Philadelphia Inquirer / MCT

Educators know the adage: If children are not reading on grade level by grade 3, it's tough for them to succeed in school academically — and in life after. Reading comprehension is essential to everything else a child learns in school. Experts say it impacts a person's prospects for life. Some states estimate their future prison populations on third-grade reading scores.

No lie.

So, a report released last Tuesday on student performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress, better known as NAEP, is sobering despite some progress. Many students nationwide remain in the academic cellar on reading and math — scoring at the basic level and not proficient (on grade level) or above.

Reading scores are especially dismaying. Even in the few states where the majority of students were proficient or better in math, students tended to fall below that mark in reading.

Reading at grade level was a particular struggle for minority students. Only about half of black and Hispanic fourth graders perform at or above “basic” in reading on the tests used in the study.

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