By LAURA GURFEIN
WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2009)—Maryland is one of only eight jurisdictions to show improvement in fourth-grade math scores from 2007, according to the 2009 Nation's Report Card for mathematics released Wednesday.
The report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that while eighth-graders improved math proficiency on a national level since 2007, the last year the test was administered, fourth-grade test results remained mostly unchanged.
The percentage of Maryland public school fourth-graders testing at proficient or advanced levels this year improved by five percentage points from 2007, to 44 percent. The national average is 39 percent.
As for public school eighth-graders, 40 percent of students are at least proficient in the subject, up from 37 percent in 2007. The national average is 32 percent, according to the report card.
"Overall, the 2009 results show a pause in what we have being seeing for students in grade four," said David Gordon, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees and sets policy for NAEP. This is the first time since the tests began in 1990 that overall improvement has not been made in fourth grade, he said.
The Maryland State Department of Education attributed the improvement to the implementation of a statewide curriculum, according to department spokesman Bill Reinhard.
The standard "is helpful because all of our school systems have what should be taught on different levels. We had a better idea of how kids would be prepared for the fourth-grade tests as well as eighth-grade" tests, said Reinhard.
The department also offers an intensive summer math training program for elementary and middle-school teachers called the Governor's Academy, "involving what is in the Maryland curriculum and what should be taught, Reinhard said. While attendance is not required, there is "always a good turnout," he said.
As required by No Child Left Behind, all middle-school math teachers in Maryland have a mathematics or mathematics education degree, Reinhard said. Elementary school teachers are required to have a general education degree since they teach many subjects.
Maryland would like to shrink "the disparity (in test scores) between our racial sub-groups," Reinhard said. The gap between these students and white students nationally remained stubbornly the same since 2007.
The report will add to the controversy surrounding national education reform, where longer school days and years and creating national standards for several core subjects are under consideration.
"Today's results are evidence that we must better equip our schools to improve the knowledge and skills of America's students in mathematics," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.
The full report is available at www.nationsreportcard.gov.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.