South Dakota’s 8th grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress rank among some of the highest in the nation. Only three states or jurisdictions – Massachusetts, Vermont and the Department of Defense – had better scores.
While South Dakota’s 4th grade reading scores also are higher than their peers across the nation, the gap appears to be closing.
“South Dakota continues to fare well nationally,” said Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “Our students have scored above the national average since the state began participating in the NAEP. We’ve got a solid track record, and we’re especially pleased with those 8th grade scores” ["NAEP reading scores released, South Dakota ahead of national average," State of South Dakota press release, 2010.03.24].
Now, the national take:
Reading scores for American children have barely budged over the past two years, a new federal report says, an assessment U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls sobering.
...Rhode Island, Kentucky and the District of Columbia are the only three jurisdictions to see improvements in fourth-grade reading, while scores in Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico and Wyoming dropped, according the report. Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah posted increases in their eighth-grade reading scores.
Reading performance has improved only slightly since the 2002 enactment of the No Child Left Behind law, despite the infusion of billions of dollars into early reading programs, according to The Washington Post.
“We’ve had a real focus on reading and we’re stuck,” Susan Pimentel, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests, told the newspaper. “I think students aren’t reading enough. And I think they aren’t reading enough of the good stuff” [staff, "Reading Scores Stall," Stateline, 2010.03.24].
We can interpret the NAEP numbers from different perspectives. Yes, South Dakota's fourth graders beat the national average reading test score by two points, 222–220. But every adjoining state beat the national average, and all but Iowa beat us. Our eighth graders beat the national average by eight points, 270–262. We tie Minnesota and Montana for top scores in the region.
An interesting demographic note: if you break the test scores down by race, our white kids score below the national average for whites in fourth grade, but above the national average in eighth grade. Our Hispanic fourth graders score much better than the national Hispanic average. Our American Indian kids in both grades do worse than the national average for their cohort.
Check out the full report, see for yourself whether the reading glass is half full or half empty.
Better yet, let's spend less time reading national reports (not to mention "intergrating technology into the classroom") and more time reading good books.