Thursday, March 4, 1999

State reading

Hawaii students score
near the bottom of a national
assessment of fourth-
and eight-graders

By Crystal Kua


With test scores on the bottom of a national assessment, Hawaii's efforts to improve reading aren't working, education officials said.

"The various programs that we have implemented appear not to have been as successful as we thought," said Selvin Chin-Chance, Department of Education test development specialist.

Hawaii has the worst readers among 39 states that participated in the assessment of fourth- and eighth-grade public school students. The 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress Reading Report Card for the Nation and States was released today.

The survey also showed that Hawaii's percentage of fourth- and eighth-graders reading at or above a proficient level is at the bottom of the pack.

"The board is gravely concerned about Hawaii's schoolchildren's continuing low performance," Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said. "While we have placed so much effort and emphasis on literacy, we're not seeing more improvement."

Knudsen said the board plans to discuss the matter at its meeting today.

Hawaii's stagnant scores come when the rest of the nation is showing improvements in the reading assessment.

"I'm pleased that so many states have shown improvement," U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said with the release of the survey. "This is a very encouraging sign, and it shows that we're moving in the right direction.

The states that have showed gains in fourth-grade reading include Louisiana, California and Mississippi, which in the past were behind Hawaii in overall scores.

"Many states that have been struggling are starting to see the results of their hard work pay off in turning around their reading scores," Riley said.

Chin-Chance said Hawaii must look to those states to come up with a formula for improvement.

"Obviously, in contrast with other states, we have not moved ahead," Chin-Chance said. "It's a wake-up that whatever we were doing was not as effective as what was being done in other states."

Knudsen said the state should also look at the pockets of successes here in the islands for direction.

The test was taken last year by 2,600 fourth-graders and 2,461 eighth-graders in Hawaii. The NAEP scale scores range from 0-500 and reflect achievement levels set by the National Assessment Governing Board, a citizens board established by Congress.

The survey, released by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, showed that while Hawaii's scores were last among the states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands had lower scores.

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