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Pa. students putting up strong numbers in math

| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005

Pennsylvania students showed a greater proficiency for reading and math than students did nationally, according to results of the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress released yesterday.

Overall, students across the nation have shown dramatic increases in mathematics in the past 15 years while reading scores showed no significant change.

The test, administered to a random sampling of students across the nation periodically, is conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Students in fourth and eighth grades were tested earlier this year in math and reading.

In both grade levels and in both subjects, Pennsylvania students scored higher than the national average.

"This is good news for everyone who has contributed to the academic progress of our children throughout the commonwealth and demonstrates continued commitment to meeting the challenges posed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act," acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald L. Zahorchak said in a statement.

In reading, 36 percent of Pennsylvania's fourth-graders performed at or above the proficient level compared with the national average of 30 percent.

In eighth-grade reading, the difference was slightly greater -- 36 percent of Pennsylvania students scored at or above proficient, while the national average was 29 percent.

Six percent more Pennsylvania fourth-graders scored at or above proficient in mathematics compared to the nation, while three percent more eighth-graders scored at that level in math.

And Pennsylvania students have shown a marked improvement in math scores since the 1990s.

Forty-one percent of fourth-graders scored at the proficient level or above in math in 2005 compared to 22 percent in 1992.

Eighth-graders jumped from a 17 percent proficiency level in 1990 to a 30 percent level in 2005.

Nationally, the percentage of fourth-graders performing at or above proficient increased from 13 percent to 36 percent in mathematics from 1990 to 2005. Eighth-graders improved their proficiency in that subject by 15 percent in that same time period.

Hempfield Area School District Superintendent Wayne Doyle said the state proficiency results do show a "significant spread" over the national average.

"I think it's a reflection on all the focus that every school district is now having with those subjects," Doyle said. "In our district, we're pleased with the scores we have had. If that's a reflection across the board in the state, that's a plus too."

Doyle said he understands why mathematics scores have seen such a dramatic increase when he looks at his own district.

"When I arrived seven years ago, I was not pleased with our math program at all," Doyle said. "We've made a major shift in our mathematics program, and we've seen significant increases."

Doyle said while he was pleased with the state results, he is always more concerned with his own district.

"The state of Hempfield to me is more important than the state of Pennsylvania, but obviously the state is a reflection on all of our districts too, and if the state is doing well that bodes well for some prospective employers looking to bring work into this state," Doyle said. "So that's also important. It's important on the economic development level."

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