| National study shows private schools
best public in math, reading
Students in religious and independent schools showed a substantial performance advantage over students in government schools, according to the latest report cards in math and reading from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The average reading scale score for eighth-graders attending private schools (285) was 19 points higher than the overall score for students attending public schools (266). The private school score fell at roughly the 69th percentile of test takers.
In fourth grade, the public/private difference in reading was 14 points (235 vs. 221).
In math, the private school advantage was 12 points in grade 8 (296/284) and 5 points in grade 4 (246/241).
The report also presents results as percentages of students meeting various achievement levels. As the charts demonstrate, a significantly higher percentage of private school students scored at or above the proficient level than public school students. Fifty-seven percent of private school eighth-graders reached that mark in reading, compared to 34 percent of eighth-grade students in public schools.
In eighth-grade math, 47 percent of private school students and 34 percent of public school students reached or exceeded the proficient level.
According to the report, "Students performing at or above the proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter."
The NAEP assessments were administered to 377,000 fourth-graders and 342,000 eighth-graders in early 2013. With the 2013 release, the National Assessment of Education Statistics (NCES) introduced a new Web-based reporting format with interactive charts and graphs.
NAEP math assessments cover five content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra.
Questions can be challenging. For example, an eighth-grade math student at the proficient level is expected to answer the following question: "Points A and B are on a number line. The coordinate of point B is 3 and the coordinate of the midpoint of segment AB is -5. What is the coordinate of point A?"
In reading, which covers literary text and informational text, students are asked to locate and recall, to integrate and interpret, and to critique and evaluate. Proficient students in eighth grade "should be able to provide relevant information and summarize main ideas and themes. They should be able to make and support inferences about a text, connect parts of a text, and analyze text features." They should also be able "to fully substantiate judgments about content and presentation of content."
In announcing the results, NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley noted that math scores "were higher in 2013 than in any previous year, going back to 1990." In reading at grade 8, Buckley said "scores were higher in 2013 than in any previous year, going back to 1992." At grade 4, "scores were higher in 2013 than in all previous years except 2011."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed Buckley's comments about record achievement levels: "In 2013, reading and math scores edged up nationally to new highs for fourth- and eighth-graders. It is particularly heartening that reading scores for eighth-graders are up, after remaining relatively flat for the last decade."
Duncan said the 2013 NAEP report "provides encouraging but modest signs of progress in reading and math for U.S. students."
(Reprinted with permission from the December 2013 issue of CAPE Outlook, the newsletter of the Council for American Private Education. The National Assessment survey can be found at: http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013.)
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