To the Editor:
Regarding your July 27, 2005, article “South Posts Big Gains on Long-Term NAEP in Reading and Math”:
I am concerned that the recent “good news” and government spin on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading scores are highly misleading. Granted, scores are up in the Southeast, but note how low they were to begin with. In reading alone in 1971, 9-year-olds in these states scored an average of 194 on a 500-point scale, compared with average scores of 213, 215, and 205 earned by children in other parts of the country. An increased focus on accountability could easily be responsible for the gain.
If we examine the NAEP scores for ourselves, we can readily see another story that the government public relations machine is not telling: Reading gains over 30-plus years are far less impressive than those achieved in math. Here’s a comparison, by region, for 9-year-olds, for whom the greatest gains in reading can be found:
- Northeast: 10-point gain in reading, compared with an 18-point gain in math.
Southeast: 24-point gain in reading, compared with a 31-point gain in math.
Central: 6-point gain in reading, compared with a 16-point gain in math.
West: 10-point gain in reading, compared with a 28-point gain in math.
It is easy to conclude that math reforms have been more effective over the last 30 years, in spite of the fact that more money has been poured into reading reforms. Isn’t there a message in this?
Public relations spin is not healthy for our nation’s children. Accountability aside, creating a false sense that reading reforms are effective impedes the search for authentic solutions that will help students of all ages eliminate their reading problems.
The Literacy Alliance
A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2005 edition of Education Week as For Progress in Reading, PR Spin Is Not Helpful