A national education assessment released Thursday shows that high school seniors have made some improvement in reading, but remain below the achievement levels reached nearly two decades ago.
Students scored an average of 288 out of 500 points in reading comprehension, two points above the 2005 score but still below the 1992 average of 292. Thirty-eight percent of 12th grade students were classified as at or above the “proficient” level, while 74 percent were considered at or above “basic.”
The trouble advancing student reading skills extends across grade levels. Reading scores for fourth and eighth grade students in 2009 were only four points higher than in 1992.
The No Child Left Behind law championed by President George W. Bush set a goal for every student to read and do math at their grade level by 2014, but the national assessment scores indicate students are still trailing significantly behind. In 2009, 33 percent of fourth grade and 32 percent of eighth grade students scored at the proficient level in reading.
In a statement, Duncan noted that President Barack Obama set a goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the end of the decade, and that in a survey that accompanied the reading and math test, 86 percent of seniors said they expect to graduate college.
The scores released Thursday also show that a stubborn achievement gap remains across racial and ethnic groups. There was no significant change in the score or gap in reading for black and or Hispanic students since 1992. White and Asian students both scored higher than they did in 2005.
Asian students scored an average of 298 points in reading in 2009, higher than any other group. It was the first time since at least 1992 that a minority group outperformed white students on the test.
Orr said further analysis, including a look at course-taking pattern, is needed to further explain the advancements Asian students have made in recent years.