published: Friday, December 28, 2012
Slow and steady progress, nationally and in Highlands
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- On Dec. 12, the News-Sun published an Associated Press article on the front page announcing the results of a 2011 international study comparing fourth-grade student progress in 45 countries.
This article explains more about the assessment itself, the organization conducting the assessment, and putting American scores into context.
The study, called Performance on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, is a product of the Lynch School of Education, Boston College.
It is administered at three times in five-year intervals -- in 2001, 2006 and 2011.
The PIRLS sets 500 points as the mean. A standard deviation amounts to 100 points.
The bottom score is 100; the top score is 800.
In the most recent assessment, United States students ranked sixth world wide in reading, with an overall average of 556. Girls as a group did better than boys by an average of 11 points.
To put the scores in perspective, in 2011, Hong Kong had the highest average student reading score, 571; and Morocco, the lowest average score, 310.
Because Florida served as a benchmark, its results were studied separately as well as counting as part of America's total. The state outscored the country, with an average score of 569, 14 points higher than the national average. Florida scores were not broken down into county results.
As a whole, the nation shows significant improvement since the first assessment in 2001, when the average score was 542.
Here in Highlands County, the school board and district have placed a heavy emphasis on reading for several years now.
A resource teacher from the district level is assigned to supporting classroom teachers with ideas and advice, reading coaches are assigned to schools; teachers are encouraged to seek reading certification.
There also is a growing movement to incorporate reading into other disciplines -- like word problems in math.
Using the FCAT as a measurement, in 2001 48 percent of fourth-grade students scored a three or higher on the reading portion of the test (that is, read at grade level or better), as opposed to 53 percent of all Florida public school students.
In 2006 (2011 results are not yet available) that percentage improved to 62 percent of Highlands County students reading at or above grade level, and 66 percent for the state as a whole.
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