- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Students in the largest urban public-school systems showed improvement in reading and math in the first year under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to a coalition of inner-city schools.

The study by the Council of the Great City Schools reviewed test scores from 61 urban school districts in 37 states. It compared 2002 and 2003 test results.

The council’s executive director, Michael Casserly, said the gains in fourth-grade reading were especially impressive.

“It’s one of the first signs that the major cities are making substantial headway at the elementary school level in teaching students to read,” he said.

The report, being released today, found that 47 percent of the fourth-graders in the study scored at or above proficiency in reading — a gain of almost five percentage points from 2002.

For math, 51 percent of the students tested at or above proficiency, nearly seven percentage points higher than the year before.

For eighth-graders, 37 percent scored at or above proficiency in reading, about one percentage point higher than in 1992. In math, there was a gain of three percentage points, to 39 percent proficiency.

The scores covered the first year of No Child Left Behind, a centerpiece of President Bush’s education agenda. The law requires states to test students in grades three though eight in math and reading annually, beginning in 2005. It also calls for all children to be proficient in both subjects by 2014.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said at the council’s annual conference yesterday that the law “has now begun a process of reform that will make the educational system more inclusive, fair and just,” according to prepared remarks provided by the department.

Mr. Casserly said the law deserves some credit for the progress, but not all of it.

The law, he said in an interview, “has been an important way of focusing our attention on reading and math performance, but people have been hard at work on these issues for the last couple of years.”

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