U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Incremental Gains

Thursday, November 7, 2013


American fourth and eighth graders showed incremental gains in reading and math this year, but achievement gaps between whites and blacks, whites and Hispanics, and low-income and more affluent students stubbornly persist, data released by the Education Department on Thursday showed.

The results of the tests — administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card — continued an upward trend in both areas over the past two decades. But still, far less than half of the nation’s students are performing at a level deemed proficient in either math or reading.

“There are some positive results here, which we were heartened to see,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exams. “But places where we had hoped to see improvement, we didn’t.”

Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone briefing that schools were having to expend too much energy to bring underprivileged students up to the level of more affluent peers. He urged more focus on the years before formal schooling begins, citing President Obama’s proposal to help states fund preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds.


Experts concerned that American students are falling behind their international peers said that despite these improvements, the United States still had a long way to go. Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard University’s program on education policy and governance, said he worried that recent policy changes were not putting enough pressure on states and school districts.