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Nation's report card shows progress for Native students
FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2003

The writing scores of American Indian and Alaska Native students have improved since 1998 but still lag behind the rest of the nation, according to a report released on Thursday

The scores of Native fourth-graders shot up nine points last year, while those of eighth-graders jumped seven, the Department of Education reported. The gains reflected a trend among students nationwide, with students of all racial and ethnic groups seeing improvements on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), considered a "report card" for the country.

"The nation's children are writing better, which is indeed encouraging news," said Secretary Rod Paige.

Despite the progress, Native American students still fell behind their counterparts. The average score on the fourth-grade writing test was 139, far below the national average of of 154. For eighth-graders, the average score of 137 trailed the national average of 153.

Results of Native twelfth-graders were not available for 2002 due a limited sample. But in 1998, their average score was 129, the lowest in the nation of all racial and ethnic groups.

Yesterday's report is part the first assessment of the nation's students since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which seeks to improvement student performance in public schools through various reforms. Along with reading scores, which were announced last month, it shows a mixed bag for the Native students.

On the reading portion, for example, Native students trailed Whites and Asians at all grade levels but outperformed African-American and Hispanic students. At the same time, there was no significant improvement in reading scores from 1992 to 2002.

The same can't be said for Native students' performance on writing. Across the board, there were improvements, including increases in percentage considered "proficient" and decreases in the percentage considered "below basic."

Of Native fourth-graders, for example, 13 percent were considered proficient last year, up from 8 percent in 1998. Only 25 percent were below basic, a drop from 32 percent five years ago.

A state-by-state analysis is limited because only eight states reported sufficient data for their American Indian and Alaska Native students. Scores were reported in Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

Nearly 500,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives attend public schools, according to government statistics, a figure that includes about 50,000 in the Bureau of Indian Affairs system. All are being impacted by No Child Behind, although BIA schools are still working on implementation of the law.

Get the Report:
Executive Summary | The Nation's Report Card: Writing 2002

Related Report:
Executive Summary | The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2002 | State Reading 2002 Reports

Relevant Links:
Writing 2002, National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/writing/results2002
Office of Indian Education, Department of Education - http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/oie/index.html

Related Stories:
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