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DoD Students Write Their Way to High Marks

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 1, 1999 – Department of Defense eighth graders are among the top student writers and readers in the country, according to test results released Sept. 28 by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

DoD's domestic schools, along with Connecticut, scored highest statistically among the 39 states and jurisdictions that took the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress test on writing, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said. Only those two scored higher than the DoD overseas schools.

The annual assessment, the only national one of its kind, was conducted in the winter of 1998 as separate writing and reading tests. Students who took the writing test had 25 minutes to compose a narrative, informative or persuasive essay.

Test results compare the academic performance of state or jurisdictional school systems rather than that of individual students. Patricia A. Lambe, DoD Education Activity communications director, said the assessment addresses a major concern of DoD parents: How do their children's schools compare with other public schools?

The DoD domestic school system -- some 70 schools in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam -- had the highest percentage of students, 6 percent, scoring in the exam's highest category, "advanced," Quigley said. Nationally, only about 1 percent of students in each grade was at the advanced level, according to Department of Education officials.

Minority students in DoD schools scored particularly well. Eighth-grade African-American students in DoD domestic schools ranked first and those overseas ranked second when compared to African-American students across the country. Hispanic students in DoD domestic and overseas schools tied for first among their peers nationwide.

Of the 43 states and jurisdictions taking part in the reading test, DoD fourth graders overseas ranked fifth and those in domestic schools ranked seventh. At the eighth- grade level, domestic and overseas DoD schools tied for fourth. African-American and Hispanic fourth-graders in DoD overseas and domestic schools ranked first and second, respectively, among their separate peer groups.

The National Center for Educational Statistics, a federal agency responsible for collecting and analyzing data related to education, administers the assessment. Center officials said 10 states or jurisdictions scored above the national average on the writing test and 17 finished below.

Other top writing test scores were by Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Texas. Those finishing below the national average were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Utah, the Virgin Islands, and West Virginia.

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