Arizona 4th-, 8th-graders lag U.S. in math, reading
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 14, 2003
Arizona students are foundering in the bottom third of the
nation in reading and mathematics at the same time that students across the
country are earning record high scores in math.
The Nation's Report Card on reading and math, released Thursday, tested a
sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders in every state. It offers an
apples-to-apples comparison of academic performance, because students in each
state are tested on the same material.
Arizona students did not meet national averages in reading or math. Only 25
percent of fourth-graders and 21 percent of eighth-graders performed at or above
a proficient level in math. In reading, 23 percent of fourth-graders and 25
percent of eighth-graders reached a proficient level.
State schools chief Tom Horne says there are other tests, including the Stanford
9 and Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, that are more important.
"On the Stanford 9, a widely used national test, Arizona students performed
above average," Horne said. "On this test, they did not. The problem is that
students are being tested on things they haven't been taught."
Horne has requested that the State Board of Education align Arizona standards
with national ones. If that happens, Horne said, "we'll see the students doing
But parents say it will take more than a standards shift.
To improve test scores, Arizona must lower class sizes and
increase teacher pay, said Joan Agostinelli, a leader in the Scottsdale Parent
Council, the largest districtwide parent group in Scottsdale.
"I would like to see Arizona value education enough to really put the resources
behind it," she said. "Money matters. It's not the only thing, but it does
Others say that teachers are not miracle workers and that parents who want to
see test scores improve should consider how much time they spend in their
"I think it comes down to parents supporting and reinforcing what children have
learned," said Miki Smith, president of the PTO at Alma Elementary in Mesa.
"Teachers only have these kids for nine months, eight hours a day; parents have
them all the rest of the time."
The Nation's Report Card has become particularly important under new federal
guidelines to improve test scores of all students, regardless of race, income or
Schools that receive federal Title I funding, which is designed to boost student
achievement in low-income areas, are now required to take part in the tests
every two years.
These national tests, created by the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, will influence the quality and content of state tests.
This year, students in almost every state showed substantial gains in math, but
reading scores remained flat.
Test results are also broken down by gender, race and income. For example, at
both fourth and eighth grades, Anglo students' scores were about 27 points
higher than Hispanic students' scores across the country.
Not a surprise
Reading teachers in Arizona are not surprised.
"We need to do a better job with learners of English as a second language," said
Vivian Hunt, a reading teacher at Apache Elementary in Peoria. "This is a
special population in Arizona. If we do this, our scores will rise."
Wire services contributed to this article.