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Recent scores on a national mathematics test for Defense Department schools fourth- and eighth-graders were essentially unchanged from 2007, further evidence that DODEA math programs need a boost.

Department of Defense Education Activity eighth-graders scored an average of 287 out of 500 on the math portion of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress — two points higher than in 2007 — while fourth-grade scores remained the same at 240. The test is administered every two years.

Those scores place DODEA students in those grades slightly below the proficient range, as defined by NAEP. And while both grade levels earned scores that placed each above the national average in 2009, DODEA has lost ground to some states on the test since 2003 as reflected by their national ranking.

Fourth-graders in 26 states scored higher than DODEA in 2009, compared to 16 states in 2003. In 2003, DODEA’s eighth-graders ranked seventh in the nation. This year, they rank 15th.

The NAEP scores did not meet expectations, DODEA officials said.

"We have kind of leveled off with student achievement. We’d like to see gains coming in across the board," said Mike Kestner, DODEA’s mathematics branch chief.

The NAEP scores come on the heels of disappointing SAT marks in math, released late last month. In 2009, DODEA SAT math scores dipped for the third straight year, to 17 points below the national average.

A student’s SAT results are considered by many colleges and universities in the admissions process.

DODEA officials said then, and again when discussing NAEP, that they’re concerned by the lack of improvement in test scores.

But DODEA is far from alone in not seeing that progress. Nationally, average math scores from 2007 to 2009 showed no significant change at either grade in 30 states and jurisdictions, according to the National Center For Education Statistics, a branch within the U.S. Education Department that administers NAEP.

Once again, Massachusetts led the way among all states, an enviable trend that has garnered the attention of DODEA’s math team.

As the education activity works on an ambitious plan to revamp its math standards and curriculum for grades K-12, "we’ll look to see what’s going on in Massachusetts … what their math standards are," Kestner said.

More than 168,000 fourth-graders and 161,000 eighth-graders in public and private schools took the 2009 NAEP between January and March.

Students also were tested in reading and science. Those results are expected in the spring.

One silver lining for DODEA continues to be the performance of black and Hispanic students. Sixteen percent of DODEA fourth-graders and eighth-graders who took NAEP in 2009 were black; their average scores placed them fourth in the nation among that population segment.

The percent of Hispanic DODEA test-takers in both grades was also 16 percent. Fourth-graders were sixth in math among Hispanics nationally, while eighth-graders were second.

Students in each grade answered questions designed to measure their knowledge and abilities in five areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra.

NAEP in its 2009 mathematics report card categorizes scores into three levels, advanced, proficient and basic. DODEA’s fourth-graders on average performed just below proficient. Questions that might give students in that range trouble, according to NAEP, include identifying the shape of a shaded region, or dividing a three-digit number by a one-digit number.

DODEA eighth-graders on average also performed below proficient. Questions that might prove difficult for this group include setting up and solving an algebraic equation or solving the length of a hypotenuse.

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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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