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DoD School Students Score High on National Test

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2003 – The 2003 tests results show Defense Department school system students scored consistently higher than the national average on a standardized test. But Joseph Tafoya, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, is already looking at ways to improve the upcoming school year's curriculum for even better results in the future.

"We're trying to be a leader. We're trying to look at programs and try to make them better so that our students are more successful," Tafoya said. "And so our efforts to improve test scores continue; our efforts to have kids have more access to challenging courses continue. We know that every kid in our system needs to take algebra and geometry, and not only do they need to take it, they need to be successful. So we're putting (in) a lot of time and effort to do that."

Results from the 2003 TerraNova 2nd Edition standardized test revealed DoD students in grade levels 3-11 scored higher than the national 50th-percentile average in the United States.

The TerraNova is a nationally standardized achievement test in which students are evaluated in reading language arts, math, social studies and science. Results from the tests are compared with those of students across the nation and show how well students are mastering skills in those subjects.

Test results showed DoD students consistently scored 10-20 points above the national average of 50 percent in 37 of the 45 subtests, and 21-25 points higher in five subtests. They scored seven to nine points higher than the 50th- percentile average in three subtests.

Tafoya said he hopes curriculum changes in the upcoming school year at DoD high schools will result in even better test results. He said this year's high school curricula were standardized to focus on skills in literacy and algebra, along with language support and computer-oriented instruction in math. Some of the high school level curriculum changes will be considered for elementary and middle schools in the future "to ensure that all kids are getting the same curriculum and the same opportunity," he said.

Another initiative Tafoya said may have helped students score well on the standardized test was the educational activity's focus on getting students to read.

"We started with our reading support classes to address, at the high school level, those students who were reading very well and were reluctant and poor readers. We had phenomenal success with that," Tafoya explained. "This year we're going to expand it to include our language-support classes to give these students and others a better opportunity to develop their writing skills, their oral communication skills (and) their editing skills, along with their reading skills, because we know that language arts proficiency is what's going to make our students successful."

Tafoya also reported that DoD schools scored high on the National Assessment of Education Progress evaluation test, often called the "nation's report card." As with the TerraNova test, NAEP assesses students' know-how in various subject areas. He said the gap between minority and other students was the smallest in the nation and that overall writing scores among DoD students ranked No. 1.

"So we have this very high-level degree of success," Tafoya said. "Obviously we're very proud of those scores, but we're not going to sit back and say we're doing pretty good. We're continuing use that as an emphasis, and help our kids and DoD schools to be among the best," he said.

Tofoya said having successful students has been the work of "great administrators and teachers." But, he added, the "hallmark" of the military education program has been the parents and military commands that support DoD schools.

"They are very interested," he said. "The quality of the education of their students is paramount all the way from the very top at the level of the Pentagon down to the local bases and schools. So with that, we believe we have an advantage."

DoDEA operates 224 fully accredited public schools in 21 districts in 14 countries, seven states and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. About 106,000 students are enrolled in DoD schools.

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