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Cristina Cabrera

American students have problems reading. And the education system of the country has found no way to improve it.

Indeed, the fourth and eighth grade results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have not changed significantly in the last 10 years. This is alarming given the many reforms that have been going on in American schools over the past decade: stronger academic standards, more testing, more rigorous teacher evaluations, and laws that discourage schools from promoting third grade students if they are not literate just to name a few.

"The reading has more or less normalized and stagnated," said Peggy Carr, director of the evaluation department of the National Center for Education Statistics, who manages the NAEP for a representative sample of students across the country 2 years.

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How Bad Are The New Readings?

Results of the NAEP 2019, which also referred to as the "Nation's Report Card" testimony showed that elementary and middle school students did worse in reading than two years ago.

In particular, 35% of fourth graders in 2019 were good at reading, a little less than 37% in the previous year of 2017, and barely more than 33% of these students were competent a decade ago.

About 34% of eighth-graders read well this year, a drop of 36% in 2017 and only a little bit better than

To put it bluntly, national tests have set a high bar for aptitude, higher than most government performance tests. However, they are the only consistent measure of how students develop over time in core subjects across the country. A sample of approximately 600,000 public and private fourth and eighth grade students passed the Reading and Mathematics Exams in 2019. Their results were released on Wednesday.

Preparation for standardized tests. (Photo: David Goldman, AP)

"Since the first reading in 1992, neither fourth-grade nor eighth-grade students have seen growth," said Carr. "Our students who are most concerned with reading are where they were almost 30 years ago."

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Why are the readings so low?

So far people can only offer theories.

An award-winning series by American public media reporter Emily Hanford explored why many educators still do not know how to give or deny children a solid foundation in phonetics: the process of correlating sounds Letters or groups of letters.

Most schools also do not spend enough time teaching children how to read fluently and develop their vocabulary. Tim Rasinski, a literacy professor at Kent State University. Fluently, Kids helps to instantly understand words and not consume so much mental capacity to work on each one.

"Fluency requires teaching methods other than phonetics," he said. "Exercise is the key."

Rasinski said he also believes that students are subjected to far too many tests, leaving less time for lessons. And he said many districts continue to use poorly designed reading curricula.

Are national math scores better?

Not really in the short term. In the last 27 years, however, they have improved more than reading notes.

About 41% of fourth graders and 34% of eighth graders achieved good results in mathematics in 2019. This is not a significant difference from 2017.

Carr also said mathematics scores are about as high as a decade ago.

Since 1990, students in both grades of mathematics have improved: Fourth graders scored 27 points more than their peers in 1990 at the 300-point test. Eighth-graders scored an average of 19 points higher was as 1990.

The scores are general: The students have hardly improved since the beginning of the 2000s

What has happened in the last ten years with mathematics and grade reading?

The gap between the most and the least competent students grew.

"Compared to a decade ago, students with poorer performance lost points in all ratings, while higher achievers scored points," said Carr.

This performance divergence is one of the reasons Carr explained that average student performance has not changed over the last decade.

Is there good news for the 2019 NAEP reading and math results?

Yes. In Washington, D.C., students showed high growth in reading in the fourth grade and in the eighth grade. In fact, DC Public Schools was the only major district to score test scores in three out of four ratings since 2017, Carr said.

Mississippi was the only other state that has improved in fourth grade since 2017.

Detroit public schools achieved great success in fourth grade, with students scoring six points more than in 2017.

Boys, Spanish students, and English learners also improved in fourth grade in the last two years Mathematics.

Education Reporting on USA TODAY is partially facilitated by a scholarship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation makes no editorial contributions available.

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