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Pupils' Reading Scores Drop in N.Y., California

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Student scores have dropped on standardized reading tests administered to two of the nation's largest public-school populations--in California and in New York City, where scores had previously been climbing.

In New York, school officials announced this month that students' scores in reading had declined by 2.6 percent from last year. It was the first such decline in five years.

The preliminary results of this year's tests revealed that 52.9 percent of the 2nd- through 9th-grade students are reading at their grade level or above; 55.5 percent scored at that level last year.

About 6.7 percent of the students tested this year are reading two years below their current grade level, compared with 6.4 percent last year, according to Gloria Lesser, assistant director of the news bureau for the New York City schools.

Another 24.6 percent of the students scored one year or below their grade levels; 8.4 percent are reading 1.1 to 1.5 years below grade level; and 5.5 percent are reading at 1.6 to two years below their grade level.

Results of the reading tests citywide ranged from a high of 79.9 percent of the students reading at grade level or above in District 26 in Queens to 35.2 percent of the students at grade level or above in District 6, located in Manhattan.

Ms. Lesser said school officials plan to assess the decline in students' reading performance and report the findings in the final report.

Declines in California

In California, officials reported this month that the reading scores of 12th graders declined by the largest margin in seven years, while the scores of 3rd- and 6th-grade students improved measurably.

Among 12th graders, the average grade in reading on the the standardized tests was 62.2 percent, a drop of nearly 1 percentage point from last year's scores. The scores are based on the average number of correct answers on the tests.

Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, said he expected the scores of 12th graders to continue to decline over the next two or three years until the education-reform measures enacted last year are fully implemented. "I think the 12th grade is going to be the toughest to turn around," he said.

Idaho Reports Drop

In Idaho, state officials reported a decline in the number of 9th-grade students who passed the state-administered minimum-competency tests in reading, mathematics, spelling, and writing.

About 57 percent of the 13,533 9th graders passed all four sections of the test, compared with 60 percent last year, according to Helen J. Williams, public-affairs officer for the Idaho Department of Education.

Ms. Williams said the statistical decline in the students' overall performance was insignificant because the number of 9th graders taking the tests has increased. She said that based on a recommendation by the state commission on excellence in education, the tests also were administered--for the first time--to more than 14,000 8th graders.

She said that 76.5 percent passed the mathematics portion of the test, 77.6 percent passed the reading test, 76.3 percent passed the writing section, and about 86 percent passed the spelling test.--sgf

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