State education officials say 8th and 11th graders are not showing improvement on achievement tests. Sixty-nine-point-three percent of Iowa 8th graders were proficient readers according to the standard tests, a tenth-of-a-percent lower than their scores last year. Among 11th graders, 77 percent are considered able readers, but that, again is a tiny tenth-of-a-percent worse than a year ago. Officials say reading problems are most pronounced among students who are poor or part of a minority. Governor Tom Vilsack says kids in 4th grade exhibited better reading skills as a result of the state effort to reduce class size and focus on reading in the first three grades. He says now it’s time to focus on middle and high schoolers who didn’t get enough help early on.Vilsack says there’s no question that for too many years the early learners were ignored and money wasn’t focused on reading programs. He says the answer may not be reducing class sizes, but changing curriculum in the higher grades — or changing teaching methods. Vilsack says those kids didn’t have the “foundation work” when they were younger, and state officials are now focused on seeing that it doesn’t happen again. A partial report on test scores was released yesterday at the School Administrators of Iowa convention. It showed 11th and 8th graders’ math scores did improve slightly. The full report will be released in mid-August.
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