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State exceeds U.S. standards

Ely: District needs higher expectations

November 25, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — To Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely, the recent release of the 2009 "National Report Card" and the federal standards it represents should be seen as a target to surpass. But first the whole community needs to get behind educating our children.

"We need to eliminate this idea there's a place for kids to fall below where we want them to be," he said. "… Our kids can [succeed] if we provide the support to get them there. NEAP sets that standard fairly high."

NEAP is the acronym for the National Educational Assessment Program, the often-criticized effort to set the same educational standards for students across the country. Ely and others have said they're very similar to the current Massachusetts standards, but notably stronger than those in some other states, particularly down South.

This month, NEAP released its data for the testing cycle of 2009, breaking out specific results for 11 "pilot" states including Massachusetts. Compared to the field as a whole, Massachusetts did well — exceeding the national average in both math and reading — but the nation's scores overall were notably lower than in 1992 despite the ability to use "accommodations" since 1998. They have risen since 2005, however.

Specifically, the test scored 12th-graders on a 500-point scale in reading and 300-point scale in math. The national average for the former was 292, with 38 percent achieving proficiency or better; for the latter, it was 152, with 26 percent reaching proficiency or better. In the Bay State, the reading average was 295 (46 percent proficient), math 163 (36 percent proficient).

Various subgroups had somewhat different scores, with large gaps between Asians and whites at the top and Blacks and Hispanics on the lower end of each scale. Likewise, there were also noticeable gaps between males and females in reading, with the girls having a 12-point advantage nationally (11 points in-state), but not much difference in math.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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