Federal Test Shows U.S. 12th-Graders Aren’t Improving in Reading or Math

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from The Wall Street Journal,

High-School Seniors’ Performance in Both Subjects in 2013 Didn’t Budge Since Last Assessment in 2009.

Despite years of efforts to lift U.S. academic performance, 12th-graders showed no improvement in math or reading in federal test scores released Wednesday, underscoring concerns that the country isn’t generating career- and college-ready graduates.

Students’ 2013 performance in the National Assessment of Educational Progress didn’t budge since the prior one in 2009. About 38% of students scored proficient or higher in reading, while about 26% did so in math—matching the 2009 results. A majority of students received marks of below basic or basic for both subjects in both years.

“This report is similar to previous reports in that there is nothing stellar about it,” said Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, created by Congress in 1988 to set and measure national benchmarks for student performance. “Too few students are achieving at a level to make our country competitive at an international level.”

Lower expectations for what graduates should study and know are part of the problem, Ms. Orr said. Meanwhile, more students are staying in school: The graduation rate was about 81% in the 2011-12 school year, up from 74% in 1991-92, according to the Department of Education.

“Students get a mixed message—students have a low bar to graduate from high school but it’s not a high enough bar to really pursue a career actively when they leave,” she said.

Other tests reflect unprepared graduates as well. SAT scores for the graduating class of 2013 were flat from the prior year, with 43% of students deemed prepared for college-level classwork, according to the College Board, which administers the test. At the international level, results announced last year from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment show American teenagers slipping in world rankings in math, science and reading.

About 92,000 12th-graders took the test, which was administered during the first quarter of 2013.

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