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NEWS RELEASES 1998-99 :: MARCH 4, 1999


North Carolina was one of only five states or jurisdictions that had significant gains in fourth grade reading skills from 1992-1998, according to 1998 state reading assessment results released today by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, is the only ongoing national survey of what students know and can do in various academic subject areas. Results showed North Carolina's fourth and eighth graders' reading has surpassed the national average and is above the Southeast average. For fourth grade, the four other states making significant gains since 1992 were Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Washington, D.C.

"North Carolina's schools are making dramatic progress, and our students, our teachers, our educators and our parents deserve the credit," Gov. Jim Hunt said. "We're on the right course, because we've kept our focus on what works - making sure our children get a Smart Start, supporting our teachers, making our schools safer and helping our students achieve their very best. But we can't stop there. If we're going to build the best system of public education in America by 2010, we have got to work even harder to give our schools and our children the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century."

"Teachers, principals and others who work continuously to ensure that our children can read and read well should be gratified by these results," said State Superintendent Mike Ward. "Only a few short years ago, we felt that the best we could do was to aim for number one in the Southeast. Today we surpassed that goal and are aiming for first in the nation."

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk, Jr. said the Board was proud of the students' reading performance. "NAEP is an important assessment because it is the only one currently in place that offers a valid comparison between states of how well students perform. The ABCs accountability effort is requiring more of all our schools and they are responding. As you can see from the results, students are rising to our high levels of expectations."

North Carolina's fourth grade students' average scale score was 217 - up three points from 1994 and up five points from 1992 - and surpassed the national average score of 215.

North Carolina eighth graders, whose performance was available for the first time on a state-by-state basis, had an average scale score of 264, exceeding the national average score of 261.

State Superintendent Mike Ward credited the state's gains to raising standards for students and teachers and a renewed focus on the basics. "In 1992, we revised our elementary and middle school reading curriculum to make it more challenging. Combine this with the ABCs of Public Education, our high stakes accountability program implemented in 1996-97, and you have the right elements for success." Ward also attributed the success of eight graders' performance to their exposure to end-of-grade tests, a more rigorous assessment program, initially implemented in 1992-93.

Since joining the state-by-state NAEP assessment program in 1990, North Carolina has shown dramatic gains in student performance for math and reading. In February 1997, the NAEP math results for 1996 were released state-by-state for grades four and eight. North Carolina fourth graders bested the national average for the first time, posting a gain since1992 that tripled the national gain. The state's fourth graders tied with Texas for showing the highest gain in the nation, 11 points, since the last time the test was given in 1992. North Carolina eighth graders were three points below the national average, but above the Southeast average for math. Eighth grade scores did show a nine point gain from 1992 and were up 17 points from 1990. The 17-point gain since 1990 was the highest in the nation.

Also in October 1997, the science results for 1996 were released by achievement level. North Carolina's average performance exceeded the Southeast by six points. North Carolina's black students also performed slightly higher than their national counterparts.

The 1998 NAEP reading assessment was the third assessment based on the NAEP Reading Framework. The NAEP Reading Framework specifies three purposes for reading to be assessed: reading for literary experience, reading to gain information, and reading to perform a task (eighth grade only).

In North Carolina, 2,514 students in 103 public schools participated in the fourth and eight grade NAEP reading assessment. All numbers are for public schools only. NAEP expects to release the state's fourth and eighth grade writing results this Fall.

Additional information can be accessed from the NAEP Web site, Because NAEP is administered to a sampling of students statewide, local school system results are not available.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.