NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS

SHOWS THAT MOST STUDENTS DO NOT READ AND WRITE WELL

OR USE EVIDENCE WELL

Reading and Writing

The results of the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress of reading and writing show that students aren't very good at either:

NAEP ASSESSMENTS OF READING AND WRITING

Percentages of Students Performing At or Above Reading Performance Level 
Age 17, 1971 and 1996
Level Percent in 1971 Percent
in 1996
350 Can synthesize and learn from specialized reading materials
7
6
300 Can find, understand, summarize, and explain relatively complicated information
39
39
250 Can search for specific information, interrelate ideas, and make generalizations
79
81
200 Can comprehend specific or sequentially related information
96
97
150 Can carry out simple, discrete reading tasks
100
100

 
 
 
Percentages of Students Performing At or Above Writing Performance Levels, 
Grade 11, 1984 and 1996
Level Percent
in 1984
Percent
in 1996
350 Can write effective responses containing supportive details and discussion
2
2
300 Can write complete responses containing sufficient information 
39
31
250 Can begin to write focused and clear responses to tasks
89
83
200 Can write partial or vague responses to tasks
100
99
150 Can respond to tasks in abbreviated, disjointed, or unclear ways 
100
100
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP), 1996 long-term Trend Assessment.   http://nces.ed.gov/naep/index.html

Assuming that even the poorly prepared high school students go to college, the percentage of high school students who arrive in college ready to learn independently from their textbooks is low (6 %). The percentage who write well is even lower (2 %) and  those who write adequately is not high--less than a third (31 %).  Most of them can start, but not finish (83 %).

Using Evidence

How ready are they to do college level thinking? The 1992 NAEP results show that few students use evidence well.

The Department of Education's 1992 assessment of the writing ability of nearly one million students in grades 4, 8, and 12 showed that "Even the best students continue to have difficulty with writing tasks that require them to muster arguments and evidence in persuasive writing. According to teachers and students, persuasive writing--advancing evidence and arguments in an attempt to influence readers to change their thinking--received less emphasis in their classes than did informative and narrative writing."

How bad were they? On persuasive writing tasks, the number of 12th grade students scoring in the top category (Extensively Elaborated) was so low, it rounded to zero percent. Elaborated responses: between 1 and 3 % (depending on the topic) Developed: 11-22 % Minimally Developed: 48-63 % Undeveloped: 20-30 %.

Twelfth graders were asked to write on four different persuasive writing topics. Their essays were then grouped into six categories by carefully trained and monitored scorers.

Undeveloped responses were essays "in which students began to respond, but did so in a very abbreviated, confusing, or disjointed manner (20-30 %).

Minimally developed responses were "brief, vague, or somewhat confusing" (48-63 %).

Developed papers "provided a response to the task that contained the necessary [rhetorical] elements, but may have been unevenly developed or unelaborated" (11-22 %).

Elaborated papers were a "well developed and detailed response that may have gone beyond the essential requirements of the task" (1-3 %). This category was beyond almost everyone's ability, but it wasn't even the highest category.

Extensively elaborated papers were "similar in content [to elaborated], but they were better organized, more clearly written, and less flawed" (0 %)

The best students--those in the top ten percent--typically wrote minimally developed responses to the persuasive topics. "Their persuasive writing revealed a clear understanding of the basic rhetorical features of persuasion, but continuing difficulty in the use of evidence in support of effective arguments." (About 11,500 12th graders from 468 schools were included in the sample (87 % were public schools; 13 % were catholic or private). About 1,500 students wrote on each of the four persuasive topics.)

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