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Center on Education Policy

Over the past few decades, concerns have escalated about the quality of education in the U.S. for students in the middle grades. Children entering adolescence have unique educational, social, and emotional needs. How effectively the nation is educating these students has long been a topic of research and debate. This study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), an independent nonprofit organization, examines trends in the achievement of grade 8 students on the state reading and mathematics tests used for accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The authors chose to analyze grade 8 data because states tend to have longer test trend lines for grade 8 than for grades 6 and 7, and grade 8 is the middle grade tested for other national and international assessments. They looked at trends from 2002 (or a more recent year in some states) through 2009 for students overall and for the major subgroups tracked for NCLB accountability purposes. If students in the middle grades are doing poorly, as some analysts have charged, one might expect to see stagnant test scores and less progress relative to elementary or high schools. This study found, however, that grade 8 students seem to be doing fairly well as gauged by solid progress on state tests, particularly in math, and by comparisons with grade 4 and the high school grade tested in each state for NCLB. But at the advanced level of achievement, the authors found a problem of widening achievement gaps. Key findings from this study include the following: (1) Grade 8 gains; (2) Comparisons with grades 4 and high school; (3) Widening gaps in advanced achievement; and (4) Asian American performance at the advanced level. (Contains 7 tables and 1 footnote.) [For related reports, see "State Test Score Trends through 2008-09, Part 1: Rising Scores on State Tests and NAEP" (ED513962) and "State Test Score Trends through 2008-09, Part 2: Slow and Uneven Progress in Narrowing Gaps" (ED513914).]

Descriptors: Grade 8, Accountability, Reading Achievement, Mathematics Achievement, Mathematics Tests, Educational Trends, Scores, Grade 4, Grade 10, Comparative Analysis, Achievement Gains, Cutting Scores

Center on Education Policy. 1001 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 522, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-822-8065; Fax: 202-822-6008; e-mail: cep-dc[at]; Web site:

Autor: Chudowsky, Naomi; Chudowsky, Victor


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