Nevada students still lag behind in national tests
Nevada fourth- and eighth-grade students showed modest improvements overall on a national standardized test, but still lagged behind their peers in other states.
The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress results, released last week showed Nevada students remained among the nation’s five poorest-performing states.
Nevada fourth-graders showed slight increases in math, receiving an average score of 232, up from 230 in 2005. That was well below the national average of 239. A perfect score is 500 points.
The largest gains were in reading by the state’s fourth-graders, who improved the state’s average score to 211 from 207. The national average was 220.
The reading scores of Nevada’s eighth-graders dipped slightly, from 253 to 252.
About 12,000 students statewide took the exam between January and March.
The exam, also known as the nation’s report card, compares student scores from those grades in math and reading with their peers nationwide.
Nevada Schools Superintendent Keith Rheault focused on improvements and said Nevada has challenging student demographics.
“Not all student populations are the same for every state,” he said.
Rheault said 23 percent of Nevada’s students who took the exam in 2007 were considered deficient in English, up from 17 percent in 2005 and second only to California.
Lower scores are to be expected of Nevada students who are not proficient in English, Rheault said.
Charles Smith, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, said the exam lets federal and state officials gauge student achievement.
But the exam doesn’t explain why student scores increase or decrease, Smith said.
Federal officials chose students to take the test based on information provided by the Nevada Department of Education.
The sample of students chosen must proportionally represent the demographics of a state.
National scores mirrored Nevada’s performance. Elementary and middle school students nationally posted solid improvements in math and modest gains in reading.
The test scores bolstered calls in Congress for renewal of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act with minimal changes.
The 2002 law requires schools to test students annually in math and reading.
Schools that miss benchmarks face increasingly tough measures, such as having to replace their curriculum, teachers or principals.
The federal law requires students in all states to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But states use other standardized test results to determine whether schools are failing or passing.