The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) recently released the results of the 4th grade reading assessment conducted in 2000. (By NAEP standards, alas, this is speedy: data available just a year after the test was given!) The news is not good: average scores were essentially flat across the 1990's. That would be okay if they were flat at a high level but they're flat at a woefully low level. Almost 2 fourth graders in 5 are "below basic" and only one in three is "proficient" (or better). When the data are disaggregated, the results become even more alarming: among black and Hispanic youngsters, roughly three-fifths don't reach "basic" and fewer than one in six is proficient. (This is also true for low-income children.) Though black youngsters fared slightly better in 2000 than in earlier years, the gains are meager compared to the gap that remains. The Nation's Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000, April 2001. The publication number is NCES 2001-499. Copies can be obtained by phoning (877) 433-7827, ordered on-line at or downloaded from

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