Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0620reportcard20.html

Arizona reading scores rank near bottom in U.S.
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 20, 2003 12:00 AM
Maggie Galehouse

Reading skills of Arizona's fourth- and eighth-graders are scraping bottom compared with the rest of the nation, according to a national report released Thursday.

Results from the 2002 Nation's Report Card on reading show Arizona's fourth-graders trailing the national average by 12 points.

Eighth-grade results, only six points below the national average, were slightly better. Arizona ranked 11th from the bottom.

State schools chief Tom Horne characterized Arizona's scores as "unacceptably low."

"The country and the state have woken up to the need to press for higher expectations in the schools," Horne said. "As we intensify expectations, we'll see these scores go up."

About 5,500 Arizona students took the test.  Fourth-graders generally read and respond to stories they might find in popular children's
magazines. Eighth-graders read specific texts, such as bus schedules or income tax forms.

Educators agree that the National  Assessment of Educational Progress report offers the best apples-to-apples comparison of student performance across the nation. The test covers different educational subjects, including reading, math and writing, every few years.

Nationwide, the reading results were mixed, with fourth-grade scores up from 1998 and eighth-grade scores stagnant. Reading
scores for 12th graders, which were not broken down by state, declined.

The Nation's Report Card assessments will become more important under new federal guidelines to improve education. The government now requires states that receive federal money to boost student achievement in low-income areas to take part in the math
and reading tests at grades four and eight, every two years, beginning in 2003. Results of the 2003 math and reading tests will be
released in the fall.

"The law doesn't say exactly how the results will be used by the federal government," said Robert Linn, education professor at the University of Colorado and former president of the American Educational Research Association. "But people like myself will sit back and analyze the data."

The 2002 Nation's Report Card on writing will be released next month. Go to http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard for more information.

Reach the reporter at maggie.galehouse@arizonarepublic.com.