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A test for America's reading skills in NAEP scores

Latest test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal slow progress in reading skills since 1992. Fortunately, Congress may refocus the No Child Left Behind law on better teaching of literacy.

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Having fun reading this sentence?

Probably not. But if you understand it at all, then you likely learned how to read very well as a child by reading for pleasure almost every day.

It turns out, regular “fun” reading is critical for progress in raising America’s education levels. In the latest “nation’s report card” issued today, fourth- and eighth-graders who routinely read for fun fared far better in their reading skills than those who didn’t.

Alas, that particular insight for parents and educators isn’t quite widespread enough yet – despite the best efforts of authors from Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling. The new test results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed little progress in reading skills since 1992, when such testing began.

For fourth-graders, reading performance rose only four points (on a 500-point scale) over the past two decades. For eighth-graders, the increase was a similarly disappointing five points.

In sharp contrast, the increases in the NAEP’s math scores were much higher – 28 and 21 points for those respective grades.

That’s quite a gap. Teaching of math has improved far more than literacy education – despite intense pressure for public schools to better perform under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

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