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Fourth Grade Test Scores Up, Down for Eighth Graders

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The New York State Education Department says 62 percent of fourth grade students in the state reached or exceeded the Board of Regents tougher standards in English. While the fourth graders improved, eighth grade English test scores dropped to a four year low. Only 44 percent of eighth graders statewide managed to achieve the Regents standards. In Buffalo's school district fourth and eighth grade scores declined.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Marion Canedo says in 1999, 31.3 percent of city eighth graders achieved the English Regents standards. But in 2002, the figure was down to 19.8 percent.

There was also a slight decline in test scores this year among city fourth graders -- a dip of 1.8 percent. Canedo says she is "disappointed," but believes the drop is attributed to the districts fiscal crisis that forced teacher layoffs.

"We really lost many of the teachers that were working with the kids just two months before they were going to take that reading assessment because of all the cuts we had this year," Canedo said.

Since the Regents standards were raised, Canedo said fourth graders actually received more reading assistance in their early school years than eighth graders.

"It is much more difficult to teach a child to read after they have passed those early years of literacy development," Canedo explained. "But I don't think this trend will continue."

State Education Department spokesman Bill Herschen says in order for students to improve their English test scores, there must be a focus on reading.

"Making sure that kids are reading 25 books a year and writing one thousand words is something that the Regents said from the very, very beginning is very important," Herschen said.

The Education Department says its a major victory that Black and Hispanic students across the state increased their performance at faster rate than students from other races.