That is among the findings of a new study that examined the educational progress of millions of U.S. pupils over a five-year span.
According to The Daily Yonder, a website which focuses on rural issues, the massive study by Stanford University professor Sean Reardon looks at standardized test scores of students in the third grade and again, five years later, when that same year of students reaches the eighth grade. The difference in test scores from third to eighth grade shows how much the student performance in U.S. school districts improved over the five-year period.
An interactive map accompanying the study shows results from every county in the nation.
In the 2008-2009 school year, Huron County third graders achieved a 3.56 grade level on math and reading test scores, the only subject areas measured in the study. That was the second highest score among the seven area counties looked at the by the Reflector. Others included: Crawford County, 2.91; Richland, 3.15; Erie, 3.37; Ottawa, 3.46; Sandusky, 3.54, Ashland, at 3.7, and the highest, Seneca County, at 3.81.
However, by the eighth grade, five years later, those same students’ scores in Huron County advanced by only 4.45 grade levels, which was next to last in growth among the same eight counties, outpacing only Sandusky County, where scores advanced by just 4.21 grade levels. Seneca County scores grew by 4.49; Erie County scores grew by 4.56; Ashland grew by 4.69, Crawford grew by 4.73; Richland grew by 4.86 and Ottawa grew by 5.11.
The big growth in Ottawa County moved it from fourth highest among the seven in third grade scores to first by the eighth grade.
Despite its less than stellar performance over the five-year period, Huron County eighth graders still scored at an 8.03 level. Erie, Sandusky and Crawford students, despite growing more during the period than Huron County, scored below Huron County students in the eighth grade.
The study also listed the percentage of counties nationwide “that do a better job of increasing test scores” during the five-year span. According to the study, 72.93 percent of counties in the United States do a better job than Huron County, while just 22.29 percent performed better than Ottawa.
Children who spend five years in school ought to advance five grade levels on standardized tests. But that doesn’t always happen, Reardon found. Children in some school districts fall behind; others gain more than five grade levels.
Reardon conducted his study in an attempt to find a way to judge school quality based on something other than static, end-of-the-year test scores. After all, children come to school with different abilities. Some districts are filled with students who enter school already testing well below grade level. Districts with many poor students have children coming into third grade a year and a half behind. Tests that just measure year-end results don’t reflect these differences. They also don’t show the growth of children over time — they don’t measure what impact the schools are having.
End of school tests only give a snapshot of a class. They don’t measure whether children are improving. And they don’t give any hint about school quality.
Reardon wanted to measure student growth over time. So he first determined the grade level of children in third grade. His theory was that “third grade average test scores can be thought of as measures of the average extent of educational opportunities available to students in a community prior to age 9.”
He then gathered the same information five years later as students left eighth grade. The difference in the standardized tests score is a measurement of the change in student performance over the period.
Reardon collected some 300 million standardized reading and math test scores from 45 million students in over 11,000 school districts spanning the school years 2008-09 to 2014-15. Reardon was able to devise a national standard by comparing state test scores to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a long-running test of students across the United States.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Bishop of The Daily Yonder contributed to this report.