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The school system that instructs military dependents continues to score well in biennial assessment tests, though students’ ranking in math has slipped.

The Department of Defense Education Activity consistently scored higher than average in National Assessment of Educational Progress results released recently. The tests, given every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders, were taken from January to March during the last school year.

DODEA, geared for students living in overseas and stateside military communities, earned high marks in reading. Its eighth-graders finished tied for first with students from Massachusetts and Vermont and fourth-graders finished tied for third with their counterparts from New Hampshire. Both totals were well above average.

But eighth-graders from DODEA were tied for 18th with four other school systems when it came to math results, and fourth-graders were tied for 26th with two other states, just one point above the national average.

“Most [school systems] would be very happy with these scores,” Jim Jarrard, a DODEA education specialist, said of the math results. “But we have very demanding parents and we’re going to have to take steps to improve these scores.”

Marc Mossburg, the activity’s curriculum chief, said scores don’t impact the funding that DODEA receives from Congress. But he said the organization is concerned about the drop in math scores and will determine if changes need to be made.

“We really do make an effort to look at all the data each year,” Mossburg said. “We are going to look at everything we do in math. We are going to see what’s working and what’s not working.”

DODEA eighth-graders tied for the sixth-best math scores in 2005, but dropped to a tie for the ninth-best scores in 2007. However, phrasing it that way could be misleading: In the latter case, for example, DODEA may have tied for the ninth-best math score, but there were 17 other state school systems with better marks. DODEA’s total of 285 (of a possible 500) was much closer to average (280) than to leader Massachusetts (298). DODEA students at both grade levels acutally scored a point higher than they did in 2005, but dropped in the rankings compared with other schools.

That was even more the case for fourth-graders, whose score of 240 just topped the national average (239), well behind front-runner Massachusetts (252).

In reading, DODEA eighth-graders moved up from second a year ago to the first-place tie, while fourth-graders remained at the third-best scores. DODEA eighth-graders earned a score of 273, compared with an average of 261; fourth-graders scored 229, compared with the national average of 220.

Minority students enrolled in DODEA schools continued to outperform their counterparts in most cases.

The system’s black students finished first in the country in reading — well ahead of the average of their ethnic peers in the States and just short of the national average for all students. Hispanic students at both grade levels finished atop the country in reading and also placed above the national average for all students.

Black eighth-graders in DODEA were also first in math and fourth-graders had the fourth-best scores. Hispanic eighth-graders ranked first in math as well, with fourth-graders getting the sixth-best scores. But only the eighth-grade Hispanic students scored above the overall national average.

DODEA gives much of the credit for its relatively high test scores to military parents’ involvement in their children’s education. And Mossburg said he expects some parents will express their concerns as well.

“We have no problem with parents going into classes and asking: ‘Hey, what about the math scores?’” he said.

For a full list of results: www.nationsreportcard.gov

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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