NAEP: Vocabulary gap is wide

A wide vocabulary gap separates low-income and middle-class students (and blacks and Hispanics from whites and Asians), according to a National Assessment of Educational Progress report. Vocabulary is closely linked to reading comprehension.

The word “permeated” was a trouble spot for a lot of 8th graders, with nearly half failing to correctly identify its meaning in a nostalgic passage about eating a “mint snowball” at a small-town drugstore. And “puzzled” was apparently puzzling for 49 percent of 4th graders, who misidentified its meaning in a passage from the story “Ducklings Come Home to Boston.”

Fewer than half of fourth-grade readers recognized “barren,” “detected,” “eerie,” “flourish” or “prestigious” when used in a reading passage.

The sample questions include this one aimed at eighth graders:

On page 1, the author says that her great-grandfather concocted something on the stove. This means that he

A. mixed things together in a new way
B. cooked ingredients at a high heat
C. kept his cooking methods secret
D. preferred to work in the kitchen

Between half and three quarters of students knew the meaning of “concocted.”

“Urbane” stumped most students in eighth and 12th grade. Most 12th graders also didn’t know the meaning of “delusion.”

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