Nebraska students show progress in reading, math

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska students showed improvement this year on statewide reading and math tests, according to new results released Tuesday.

More than 74 percent of students were at or above reading proficiency levels this year, compared with less than 72 percent in 2011. In math, more than 67 percent were proficient in 2012, compared to less than 63 percent the previous year.

The Nebraska Department of Education report compiles test scores and demographic information from each of the state's 249 public school districts, which oversee the education of 152,000 students.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed said he believed many teachers last year were shocked when they saw 2011's test scores in math because they assumed math was a strong point for students.

"I think what we've witnessed across the state was teachers got together, reordered their curriculum, improved instruction in areas where they found students to be lacking, and stepped it up a notch," Breed said. "I think we'll continue to see that type of improvement in math very clearly over the next few years."

Breed said he expects that scores will continue to improve as teachers adjust their curriculum. Nearly 67 percent of students were proficient in science, and 73 percent were proficient in writing. This year marked the first time students were tested in those areas under new statewide standards, so there are no previous years to compare with those results.

The results showed a continued achievement gap between Hispanic and African-American students and their peers, as they did last year. Students in high-poverty areas also generally scored lower than their peers.

The results were the first-ever under the new Nebraska Performance Accountability System, which measures schools by their average scores in reading, math, writing and science.

The exam measures improvement by comparing year-to-year differences in the math and reading scores of different students when they are at one specific grade level. It also measures growth by tracking the progress of the same students each year as they advance through school.

In the areas of both improvement and growth, a majority of Nebraska schools showed progress.

Three-fourths of the districts showed improvement in reading since last year, and more than 71 percent improved in math, according to department figures.

Nearly 80 percent of districts reported growth in student reading scores, while 73 percent experienced growth in math.

Breed cautioned against "basing any high-stakes decision on the measure of a single test."

The Legislature adopted the new system after the U.S. Department of Education said Nebraska had failed to show its local assessments accurately measured student achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The new system is designed to give schools an idea of what they need to improve, while giving credit to those that remain low-ranked even while showing strong progress.

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Online:

Nebraska Department of Education: http://www.education.ne.gov/

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