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Virginia Journal of Education


Virginia Students Among
Nation’s Strongest Readers

RICHMOND—Virginia elementary and middle school students continue to outperform their peers nationwide on reading tests, and are among the nation’s strongest readers, according to results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Here are some of the results:

• Virginia’s average score in the fourth grade reading test was 227, which is 7 points higher than the average in the South and in the nation.
• Only students in Massachusetts scored at what the national testing program describes as a “statistically higher” level on the fourth grade test.
• Virginia’s average score in the eighth grade reading test was 266, which is 5 points higher than the average in the South and 3 points higher than in the nation.
• Fourth grade African-American students in Virginia outscored their regional and national peers and in no state did black students perform as a statistically higher level in either grade four or grade eight.

NAEP reading tests are given to representative samples of students in every state, and have been administered every two years since 2003.

“NAEP sets rigorous goals for reading proficiency and provides an objective means of comparing student achievement from state to state,” says Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright.

Gallup Poll Finds Support
for Recess from Principals

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a nationwide survey of 2,000 principals, a Gallup poll found widespread support for the practice of recess, even in a time when pressure for better test scores is causing many schools to reduce or eliminate time spent on the playground.

Four out of five principals in the survey say that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement, and two-thirds believe that students listen better and are more focused in class following recess. Further, almost all of the principals believe that recess affects a child’s social development (96 percent) and general well-being (97 percent) positively.

Recess, once taken for granted as a “recharge your batteries” part of the elementary school day, has been in decline in recent years, and a 2005 study showed that the average American student only spends 22 minutes a day in recess.

The Gallup poll should be evidence against such a decline, researchers say. “This research sends a clear message to anyone interested in improving education or the overall well-being of America’s children: It’s time to take recess seriously,” says Jane Lowe of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a sponsor of the poll. “Recess should no longer be treated as an afterthought but as a core part of any strategy for promoting learning and improving health.”

Teachers Want Chance to
Collaborate, Expand Roles

NEW YORK— Teachers highly value collaboration with colleagues and are open to leadership roles, according to the 2009 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success, an annual gauge of educators’ feelings about their careers in American public schools. Also among the study’s major findings:

• Career satisfaction levels are high among teachers in suburban and rural schools, while teachers in urban schools are less likely to report being very satisfied.
• Highly satisfied teachers tend to have higher expectations for their students. They are less likely to leave the profession and have stronger views on shared responsibility and collaboration.
• New teachers are often assigned to the most challenging schools with the highest teacher turnover rates.
• “Hybrid roles” are appealing to teachers, offering them the opportunity to teach in the classroom part-time and have other roles in their school or district.

“These findings reinforce what we know—that positive working conditions enhance the quality of teaching and learning in all schools,” says Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the NEA, “You build positive working conditions by providing resources, support and opportunities to collaborate and grow.”

Eskelsen also supports better safety nets for beginning teachers. “In what other profession are novices assigned the most challenging work, often without adequate resources and support, and expected to flourish? To have effective teachers in every classroom, we have to provide induction, mentoring, teacher teams and professional development,” she says.



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