National Report Card shows stagnant scores in reading and math for 12th graders

By Daniel S Levine,

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released the results from its 2013 test of the nation’s 12th graders in math and reading. It does not look good, as the national averages for both remained stagnant from 2009, the last time the test was administered.

A total of 92,000 public and private school students took part in the exam. Only 26 percent scored at or above proficient in math, while the number was at 38 percent for reading, the NAEP said.

There was also a noticeable racial divide, with 47 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students scoring at or above proficient in math. That’s compared to 33 percent of white students, just 7 percent of black students and 12 percent of Hispanic students.

In reading, 47 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander and white students each scored at or above proficient. Sixteen percent of black students and 23 percent of Hispanic students did well on reading.

“We project that our nation’s public schools will become majority-minority this fall – making it even more urgent to put renewed attention into the academic rigor and equity of course offerings and into efforts to redesign high schools,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in response to the racial gap, notes MSNBC. “We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students.”

Of the 13 states that took part in the exam, only four - Idaho, Arkansas, West Virginia and Connecticut - showed overall improvement in math from 2009. Arkansas and Connecticut were the only two to show overall improvement in reading.

The concerning numbers about the nation’s education policies will likely help the new Common Core standards gain support, notes The AP. These standards are set to be introduced in 44 states and Washington, DC and will explain specifically what each student should know in math and reading in each grade.

There also remains the key question of why scores in the 12th grade are not rising as they are for fourth and eighth grade students. Mark Schneider, vice president at the American Institutes for Research, suggested to the AP that this might be due to students taking easier classes that aren't challenging them. “All we've done is put them in courses with bigger titles,” he told the AP.

“Achievement at this very critical point in a student’s life must be improved to ensure success after high school,” David Driscoll, National Assessment Governing Board chairman, said. “Many factors inside and outside the classroom contribute to student performance, and it is incumbent upon everyone in the education community to find ways to foster academic improvement in the years to come.”



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