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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

Michigan, Ohio beat national average


COLUMBUS - When their scores on a national mathematics test were lumped together, Ohio and Michigan students did not rank among the nation's elite, according to tests results released yesterday in Washington.

But fourth and eighth-grade pupils in both states scored well above the national average in the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“So often we find Ohio `stuck in the middle' in national education rankings,” said Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio's superintendent of public instruction. “I'm greatly encouraged that these results support that Ohio is breaking away from the middle and is moving toward our goal of being one of the best educational systems in the nation by 2005.”

Results of the nationwide fourth-grade math test, which was administered in 2000, showed a cluster of eight states at the top: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Indiana, Connecticut, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, and Vermont.

At the eighth-grade level, pupils in Minnesota, Montana, Kansas, and Nebraska had the highest average scores.

Neither Ohio nor Michigan was among the states with fourth graders and eighth graders scoring higher in 2000 than in 1992 and 1996, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency that administers the national test. Ohio did not take part in the 1996 national test because not enough districts were interested, state officials said.

The math test was taken last year by 2,500 pupils in 100 schools in Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education does not identify those schools or release scores from each school.

The national test was administered in three junior high schools and one elementary school in Toledo Public Schools, said spokeswoman Jane Bruss.

The results from the 2000 national test found:

  • With a maximum score of 500, the average score in Ohio and Michigan was 231 on the fourth-grade math test. For Ohio, that is 12 points higher than the average score in 1992 and for Michigan, it was 11 points higher. During the same period, the average score nationally increased by seven points.

  • Ohio and Michigan fourth-graders scored higher than children in 35 other states and territories, the same in two other states, and lower than children in nine others.

  • Eighth graders in Ohio scored higher than 37 other states and territories, the same as three states, and lower than six states.

  • With an average score of 278, Michigan eighth graders scored higher than children in 26 states and territories, the same as Idaho and children in overseas U.S. military schools, and lower than 18 states and territories.

    Thomas Watkins, superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education, was unavailable for comment yesterday, and other state education officials didn't return messages for comment.

    Mitchell Chester, the Ohio assistant superintendent in charge of testing, said a “gender gap” - with boys scoring higher than girls in math - has grown slightly, based on the fourth-grade test scores from 1996 to 2000.

    The “racial gap” - the scores of blacks and Hispanics versus whites on the fourth and eighth-grade math tests - is smaller in Ohio than the national average, Mr. Chester said.

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