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Native students show mixed progress on report card

The No Child Left Behind Act has raised the math achievement levels of Native American students but also has led to a slight decline in reading scores, according to data released on Wednesday.

In the four years since the law was passed, American Indian and Alaska Native students have seen significant improvements in math scores. From 2000 to 2005, Native fourth-graders gained 15 points and Native eighth-graders gained 10 points.

But the picture wasn't as bright when it came to reading levels. Native fouth-graders saw their reading scores fall by five points from 2002 to 2003. The scores picked up by two points in 2005 still didn't match the 2002 levels.

For Native eighth-graders, their reading test scores fell by four points from 2002 to 2003. The scores picked up by three points in 2005 but, again, failed to match the 2002 levels.

The mixed progress was reflected in school systems across the country as the Bush administration released the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Also known as the Nation's Report Card, the results showed little improvement in reading scores and stunted growth in math scores in the last year.

Nevertheless, President Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the nation's school children are on the right track under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. "This is an encouraging report," Bush said at the White House, "because it shows there's an achievement gap in America that is closing -- that minority students, particularly in fourth grade math and fourth grade reading, are beginning to catch up with their Anglo counterparts."

The achievement gap is indeed closing -- but not for American Indian and Alaska Native students. On both the reading and math tests, scores for Native students trailed significantly behind those of White and Asian-American students.

Reading scores of Native American fourth-graders fell 25 points behind the scores of White and Asian students, for example. In math, Native eight-graders trailed Asian students by 31 points and White students by 25 points despite the long-term gains shown by Native students in math.

American Indian and Alaska Native students, however, performed as well as or better than their Hispanic and African-American counterparts in both reading and math.

At the same time, the percentage of Native students who are proficient in reading and in math fell far below national averages. In 2005, only 18 percent of Native fourth-graders were proficient in reading compared to 41 percent of Whites and 42 percent of Asians.

In math, 41 percent of Native eight-graders were proficient compared to 39 percent of Whites and 47 percent of Asians.

The national data released yesterday was based on the scores of eighth- and fourth-graders who attend public, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other schools. An estimated 500,000 Native Americans attend public schools while about 48,000 attend BIA schools.

In addition to the national statistics, state-by-state scores were released. These were based only on students who attend public schools.

Native American eighth-grade students in Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington showed better results on the math test than Native students in other states. Among fourth graders, Native students in Oklahoma and California had the best math scores.

For reading, California and Oklahoma again had the best fourth-grade scores. North Dakota, Oklahoma and Washington had the best reading scores for eighth-graders.

National Assessment of Educational Progress:
Nation's Report Card: Reading 2005 | Reading Scores by Race/Ethnicity | Nation�s Report Card: Mathematics 2005 | Math Scores by Race/Ethnicity | Press Release: Spellings Encouraged by New National and State Report Cards on Math and Reading

Relevant Links:
National Indian Education Association -
Office of Indian Education Programs, BIA -