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Leaders see test score improvement

Programs to improve reading among elementary students appear tobe working in Mississippi, according to the results of a nationaltest released recently.

“I think we’re showing improvement,” said Lincoln County SchoolsSuperintendent Perry Miller. “It shows that we made slightly moreprogress than the nation.”

Brookhaven Public School District Superintendent Dr. Sam Boundsagreed.

“It shows that Mississippi is making progress,” he said. “We notsatisfied here, but we are pleased with the results. We’re closingthe gap.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ReadingAssessment was a voluntary test involving only a sampled group ofstudents representing the demographics of the state.

“This means only state scores can be generated,” Miller said.”It’s not broken down at the district level. We don’t get back anyresults. They don’t send us any information on this.”

State students in fourth grade who took the test attained ascale score of 203, matching the score attained by Mississippi’sfourth graders when the test taken in 1998.

Eighth grade state students tested attained a scale score of255, gaining four points over the average scale score of eighthgraders in 1998.

Both the state fourth and eighth grade scale scores are belowthe national scale averages of 217 and 263, respectively.Mississippi, however, showed the greatest gain in scale scorepoints since the 1998 assessment.

“I would definitely say we are emphasizing reading more now thanwe ever have, and I think that shows,” Miller said.

Gains at the national level were slower, according to theassessment. Fourth graders scored a national scale average of 213in 1998 and 217 in 2002 while the eighth graders increased from 261in 1998 to 263 in 2002.

“I think it’s a good indication that we are closing the gap,”Bounds said.

Bounds said three concepts in particular were having a majorimpact on reading at the lower levels: smaller class sizes, moreemphasis on reading across the curriculum and stressing theimportance of reading and writing among lower grade students.

Smaller class sizes, especially, were certainly having animpact, he said.

“That allows for more individualized instruction,” Bounds said.”Smaller classes coupled with more emphasis on reading andcomprehension across the board are probably leading theimprovement.”

The assessment was administered in January through March of2002.