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Idaho students make the grade

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | November 19, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Idaho high school seniors outpaced their peers across the country on the reading portion of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, while their math scores were on equal footing with performance by students in other states.

"This is certainly good news," said state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene.

Idaho was one of 11 states nationwide to participate in a voluntary pilot program that included, for the first time, 12th grade state-level results in reading and math on the "Nation's Report Card." The results were released Thursday.

The margin of Idaho 12th graders scoring at or above grade level in reading was 78 percent, while the national average was 73 percent.

In math, 66 percent of Idaho high school seniors hit or exceeded the grade-level benchmarks. The national average was 63 percent.

In addition to Idaho, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota and West Virginia participated in the pilot program.

Of the 10 other states participating in the pilot program, none had a greater percentage of students meeting grade-level in reading than Idaho.

Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna wasn't surprised by the national results.

"The majority of Idaho students are performing well in reading and mathematics, but our goal must be for every student to graduate prepared for post-secondary education and the workforce without the need for remediation," Luna said in a prepared statement. "We are on the right path and headed in the right direction, and we will continue to work until we reach our goal."

Goedde, who chairs Idaho's Senate Education Committee and is vice-chair of the National Conference of State Legislators Education Committee, pointed to Idaho's decade-long reading initiative, a program that uses testing to identify elementary students in need of additional help.

"My hat is off to teachers who, through their hard work, brought their students to this level on a nationally normed test," Goedde said.

More recently, a similar math initiative has provided advanced training for math teachers and online programs for students in need of help.

New Idaho K-12 graduation requirements that require high school students to take four years of math will also help boost the scores of the state's high school seniors, Goedde said.

Many students are failing to show college readiness in math after high school graduation, Goedde said, costing tuition and burdening campus resources to bring them up to speed.

"So a little more money spent now pays large dividends to taxpayers a couple of years later," he said.

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