KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Defense Department students made gains in a majority of subject areas on the 2010 TerraNova test and scored above the national average across the board, educators announced Tuesday.

In the Department of Defense Education Activity, 50,139 students in grades 3 to 11 were assessed last spring in reading, language, math, science and social studies. Their scores were then compared to the baseline — a national norm group of about 350,000 stateside students who took the same test in 2007.

For the second consecutive year, ninth-graders at DOD schools in Europe had the highest marks, scoring in the 78th percentile, or 28 percentile points above the national average of 50 in math. That means DODDS-Europe ninth-graders scored better in math than 78 percent of all students who took the test.

DODDS-Europe seventh-graders had the biggest gain in an individual subject area, jumping 5 points in science, to the 71st percentile.

The lowest results in DODEA were seen in fourth-grade math, where students scored just seven percentile points above the national average – but still improved in this category after an average score of 55 last year.

In 2009, DODEA students were tested for the first time using the TerraNova 3, a harder test which established a new baseline for yearly score comparisons. Compared to 2009, DODEA scores this year mostly improved, from one to three percentile points. Scores dropped by one point in five areas: fifth-, ninth- and 10th-grade reading, and seventh- and eighth-grade language. The highest gains system-wide – three points – were made by third-graders in language, and seventh-graders in science.

DODEA officials are pleased to see gains in 27 of the 45 grade and subject area subtests, said Steve Schrankel, chief of assessment and accountability. But educators want to see reading scores continue to rise in the lower grades, he said.

DODEA students in grades three, four and five scored 9 to 10 percentile points above the national average.

“Reading is still an issue in the lower grades” and continues to be a major area of focus,” Schrankel said. Several factors may be at play, such as the unfamiliarity of standardized test-taking among young students and lack of literacy training at home or in the early grades, he said.

By grades four or five, educators say that students need to have strong literacy skills since “reading materials get more difficult and more complex,” he said.

DODEA officials said they look for trends in TerraNova results to help direct classroom instruction and develop curriculum and staff development. It’s also an accountability tool, as results are shared with leaders at the Pentagon and parents.

“It does provide a snapshot … of how do our students do in comparison to children in a national norm group,” Schrankel said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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