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U.S. math skills decline for the first time since 1990

Th decline was indicated in the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

By Ed Adamczyk
U.S. math skills decline for the first time since 1990
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan unveiled the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which showed a decline in math and reading skills of tested American students. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The math skills of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders declined for the first time since 1990, the results of a test released Wednesday by the Department of Education indicated.

The results of the independently administered National Assessment of Educational Progress, a biennial study sometimes called "The Nation's Report Card," showed math scores for students across the country in Grade 4 fell by two points, and by three points for those in Grade 8 out of a possible score of 500. The reading score for eighth graders fell three points and it remained unchanged for those in Grade 4.

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged the downturn "doesn't come as a big surprise."

Peggy Carr, National Center chief, said, "This isn't a pattern that we saw coming. In that sense, it was an unexpected downturn. But we'll see. I think the bigger point is that we'll see if this is going to be a trend that will continue."

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The test differs from typical school testing in that participants are randomly selected for the one-hour exam, and are not coached or otherwise prepared in advance.

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Observers noted the possible influence of Common Core standards for testing, demographic changes in schools and the performance gap between poor and affluent students, as well as white and minority students, for the decline. About 18 percent of tested African-American fourth-graders were considered proficient in math skills.

The Obama administration suggested test preparation and test-taking in schools is "consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students." It added the government is at least partially responsible for "unnecessary" testing.

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The NAEP identified tested students in Mississippi and the District of Columbia as improving over 2013 scores in reading and math skills at both grade levels.

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