High School Seniors in U.S. Fail to Show Reading, Math Progress

Janet Lorin, Bloomberg, May 7, 2014

U.S. high school seniors, whose school years have encompassed the sweeping education initiatives of two presidents, failed to demonstrate improvement in math or reading on a national exam.

Only 38 percent of those tested in 2013 scored as proficient readers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” released today by the Education Department. Three-quarters failed to show math proficiency. The scores were little changed from 2009, when the test was last given.

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The seniors were in the first grade when President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law. The program called for schools to demonstrate yearly progress and to show that all students are proficient on state standardized tests by 2014. Most states have received waivers under President Barack Obama, whose Race to the Top program has pledged $4.35 billion in state grants in four years to boost education standards.

The Nation’s Report Card shows what students know in various subject areas and compares achievement data among states and demographic groups. Tests are also given in science, history and other subjects. Just 12 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in American history, according to a 2011 report.

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The 2013 reading and math results are based on a nationally representative sample of students in the 12th grade. More than 92,000 students were assessed in either math or reading.

Asian/Pacific Islander students scored the highest in math, with 47 percent proficiency, followed by 33 percent of white students. Those two groups also tied at 47 percent in reading.

The achievement gap between black and white students has remained steady at about 30 points in math from 2005 to 2013. The score gap between blacks and whites in reading widened by 5 points from 1992 to 2013.

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the U.S. must do better for its students, especially African-American and Latino pupils.

“Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite growth in student achievement over time in elementary school and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years,” Duncan said in a statement. “Just as troubling, achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed.”

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