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U.S. Schoolchildren Show Some Gains in Reading, Math Performance

Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. schoolchildren made modest gains in math and reading on the national test known as the Nation’s Report Card, although less than half are performing at a level deemed proficient.

The biennial test of fourth and eighth graders showed greater improvement in 2013 over the two decades since it was first administered. Forty-two percent of fourth graders were proficient or better in math this year, compared with 13 percent in 1990, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Education, which sponsors the test.

American students have been falling behind those in other countries, with 15 year olds ranked 14th in reading and 25th in math among students in 34 countries tested in 2009. To improve U.S. results, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core standards, which are intended to align and raise expectations for learning across the country. Some states have delayed implementation because of concerns about a federal takeover of education.

“Education drives America’s ability to lead in creativity and innovation, skills needed in a rapidly changing world,” William Waidelich, the executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education, said in the statement. “These results suggest that America’s educators and leaders are taking the right steps by strengthening our schools.”

The Nation’s Report Card test in 2011 disappointed educators because the results showed little improvement.

Math Gains

The 2013 version was taken by 717,000 students in public and private schools in every U.S. state. States that showed the biggest gains included California, where eighth grade reading improved seven points, and Tennessee, where fourth grade math results gained seven points.

Nationally, Hispanic students improved their math scores at both grade levels, the only racial or ethnic group to do so, while white, black, Hispanic and Asians all improved in eighth grade reading, according to the statement.

On a zero-to-500 scale, fourth graders improved one point, to 242, in math, and one point, to 222, in reading. Eighth graders improved 1 point, to 285, in math and three points, to 268, in reading.

Among fourth graders, 27 percent are reading at a level considered proficient, and 8 percent are advanced, while 34 are doing math that is proficient and eight percent are advanced.

Thirty-two percent of eighth graders are reading at a proficient level, with just 4 percent advanced, and 27 percent are doing math at a proficient level, with 9 percent advanced.

“Today’s results give me hope,” said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which administers the test. “Even though the gains since 2011 are modest, some states have notable improvements, and over time all of these improvements add up to higher achievement overall.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Staley in London at ostaley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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