About 90 years ago, one-quarter of service members drafted to serve in World War I could not read. As a result, American Education Week was founded to urgently boost American literacy. Today, it’s critical that we continue this focus on reading skills.
This month’s reading results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” reveals some progress on student performance by scores and its three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.
In fourth grade, the percentage of black students at each of those levels was higher in 2011 than in 1992. And for eighth grade, black students had higher percentages at Basic and Proficient over this same time period. At both grades, reading scores were higher in 2011 than in 2009 for black, white, and Hispanic students.
However, there is an alarming fact seen in NAEP reading: 51 percent of black fourth-graders and 41 percent of black eighth-graders fall below Basic, which indicates partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade level. How can any student reading below a Basic level — regardless of race or ethnicity — be prepared to learn in other subjects?
Across the country, the achievement gap between white students and black students persists. On NAEP reading in both grades, that gap is 25 points. It’s a reduction compared to what we saw in 1992, but that’s not much of a victory.