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Study finds state's students improved since No Child act

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Alabama students in elementary and middle school are performing better in reading since 2002's No Child Left Behind Act and the proficiency gaps between black and white students and those on free or reduced lunch are narrowing, according to a study released Tuesday.

Student scores were used in the report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy, a national nonprofit group that advocates for public schools and researches issues that affect them.

The study's authors found that students are doing better nationally on state reading and math tests and they made the most progress on elementary-school math tests. However, they cautioned that not all states had trend data to show scores before and after the act was implemented, so year-to-year results aren't always comparable.

According to the report, Alabama students improved their reading proficiency in all grade levels except high school, and math performance increased in all the grade levels.

State Superintendent of Schools Joe Morton said the report was good news for Alabama and attributed the improvements to the state's reading initiative and math and science programs.

He said the fact that high school reading scores did not increase indicates the need to expand the Alabama Reading Initiative beyond just K-3, a move that can come if enough money is included in the state's education budget.

"We've made a concerted effort to really concentrate on reading and I think it's starting to pay off. This report in my eyes tends to validate our efforts," he said Tuesday.

Jack Jennings, CEO of the policy group, said he was surprised by the study's findings because when the same comparison is made using students' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, they're shown to be doing worse now than before No Child Left Behind.

Morton said while the state's tests are routinely revamped to make sure they have enough rigor and they should not be compared with NAEP scores because the definition of "proficiency" is different for each test.

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