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Comprehension Varies Markedly By Students' Age, Race, Region

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A recent analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (naep) suggests that although some students have improved their ability to comprehend what they read, others continue to lag behind the national average.

Based on information gathered as part of the 1979-1980 reading and literature assessment, the analysis is naep's third and final examination of the data.

The study reports that while 9- and 13-year-olds showed significant improvement on tests designed to measure their ability to comprehend written material, the performance of 17-year-olds declined significantly. And although males, black students, and all students in the Southeast made significant gains, they still performed below the national average, according to the analysis.

Other demographic characteristics emerged in the analysis of students' scores. In a test of reading comprehension, 9-year-old students in the Northwest region of the country scored significantly higher than the national average, while at all ages, Southeastern students scored below that average. At all ages and in all regions of the country, white students scored higher than black and Hispanic students.

Parents' educational attainment also was linked to students' performance. Students whose parents had not graduated from high school had lower scores than those students with at least one parent who was a high-school graduate.

At all grade levels, female students scored higher on comprehension tests than their male counterparts. Also, students who attended school in "advantaged urban" communities attained higher scores than those students who attended school in disadvantaged urban communities.--sw

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