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NAEP Scores Dragged Down By Students Who Missed Past School, Data Show

Background data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress add to the growing pile of evidence that student absenteeism can hamstring a district's performance on the test dubbed the "Nation's Report Card."

Education consultant Alan Ginsburg presented the latest analysis of NAEP background data at a meeting of the National Assessment Governing Board in Tysons Corner, Va., last Thursday. The updated "NAEP Time for Learning" report is part of an ongoing project to use the massive ancillary data generated by the tests to provide more context for student performance.

In large urban districts, 8th-grade students who missed three or more days in the previous month of school had an average mathematics score of 260 on the 2011 NAEP, 21 points lower than those who missed no school. In some districts, the gap was even wider: 25 points in New York City, 24 in Chicago and the District of Columbia. (In the District, one in four 4th and 8th graders is absent at least three days a week, giving one hint of why schools in the nation's capital are so chronically struggling.)

This NAGB chart shows how dramatically students' attendance affects district NAEP performance.

Overall, in both grades 4 and 8, students received more instructional time in reading than in math, but the same study found wide differences in the classwork and homework students received in different parts of the country. In 8th grade, 14 percent of states provided less than five hours of instruction in math each week, even for students performing below basic level; 9 percent of states did the same in reading. That could be a problem, Mr. Ginsburg noted in the report, because states with low instructional time for their below-basic students may have difficulty proving their Title I funding is "supplementing" an equitable state funding for education.

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