Sunday, May 28, 2006

ANother Reason Why It Is Wise To Emphasize Reading Skills

One of the common complaints against No Child Left Behind was that it emphasized reading and math skills above science and social studies. As a history teacher, I hear that a lot, especially from social studies teachers in the lower grades. However, my thought has always been that if kids don't know how to read well, they are never going to learn history or science that well either. And now here comes a bit of evidence to back that up. The newest National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP scores are out on science and they tell us that students in the younger grades are actually improving their scores in science. Imagine that. Apparently, by learning better how to read, they're able now to read the science textbook and learn the material better. And the low income and minority students showed the most improvement.

There is also bad news to temper that bit of good news. Progress is still flat among high school students.
Science scores among high school seniors have remained flat since 2000, which means that nearly half of high school seniors performed below what the NAEP has called the "basic" level in science. The survey also shows a continuing large gap between African American and Hispanic achievement on one side and that of whites and Asians on the other.

Unlike elementary schools, which have been subjected to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, many high schools have not yet felt much legal or political pressure to institute accountability measures or to raise requirements. In the past five years, the number of white students taking a full complement of high school science courses has grown by only one percentage point, to 30 percent. The number of black students doing so has dropped, from 25 percent to 22 percent.
We'll have to wait and see if, when the accountability requirements at the high school level have been fully implemented for a four year period, we'll see any increase in those scores. But if those kids are reading at a higher level than their fellow students of today, they will, at least, have an easier time reading the textbooks.