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What the Bush Ed Dept Got Right

National scores on standardized reading tests continue to stagnate, but a Bush administration program helped students who previously performed the worst on these tests.The New York Times’ Sam Dillon reports that reading scores on the Education Dept’s National Assessment of Education Progress test are about the same as when the test started in the early 1990s. This contrasts with math scores, which have gradually increased.

But progress has been made at the bottom:

The average scores of fourth graders in the bottom 10 percent for reading increased by 16 points from 2000 to 2009. In contrast, the average scores of the nation’s best fourth-grade readers, those in the top 10 percent, rose by only 2 points during the same period.

“All the progress in reading is being made at the bottom,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Our worst readers are getting better, but our best readers are staying about the same.”

Sheila W. Valencia, an education professor at the University of Washington, said the Bush administration’s $1-billion-a-year reading initiative, Reading First, focused instruction in thousands of public schools on building lower-level reading skills.

Bush’s No Child Left Behind law aimed to get all students to score “proficient” on the NAEP math and reading NAEP tests by 2014. There’s no way that’s going to happen — but credit is due for the successful implementation of Reading First.

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