Nation's Report Card Shows Reading Levels of High School Seniors Are Worse Than 20 Years Ago

Filed under: In The News, Education: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens


Books ... check 'em out. Credit: Corbis

If there was such a thing as collective parenting for the entire nation, high school seniors across the country would be spending their Thanksgiving breaks holed up in their rooms, grounded and sentenced to literature.

"Don't even think about the car keys, until you've finished 'The Catcher in the Rye,' " would be the collective mantra of Mom and Dad of America.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, referred to as the Nation's Report Card, tested 52,000 students in reading and 49,000 in math across 1,670 school districts in 2009, according to a release from the National Center for Education Statistics. And though 12th graders have made some improvement in reading, the scores are worse than they were in 1992.

Despite a teen literary devotion to the Harry Potter and Twilight series, only 38 percent of 12th graders are classified as at or above the "proficient" level, the release reports.

Students scored an average of 288 out of 500 points in reading comprehension, two points above the 2005 score, but still below the 1992 average of 292. Thirty-eight percent of 12th grade students were classified as at or above the "proficient" level, while 74 percent were considered at or above "basic," according to the release.

"Today's report suggests that high school seniors' achievement in reading and math isn't rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in a separate statement.

President Barack Obama has set a goal that the United States once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the end of the decade, Duncan adds in the statement. In a separate survey that accompanied the NAEP test, 86 percent of seniors said they expect to graduate college, Duncan says in the statement.

"They'll only succeed if we challenge and support them to raise their academic performance and offer them the financial support they need to pay for college," she adds.

Duncan says the government is taking steps to meet these goals, which include providing $40 billion over the next decade in grants for disadvantaged students and supporting states as they work together to raise standards to match college and career expectations.

The good news: Math scores rose from 150 to 153 between 2005 and 2009, according to the report.

The scores released Nov. 18 also show that a stubborn achievement gap remains across racial and ethnic groups, according to an article in There was no significant change in the score or gap in reading for black and Hispanic students since 1992. White and Asian students both scored higher than they did in 2005.

Asian students scored an average of 298 points in reading in 2009, higher than any other group. It was the first time since at least 1992 that a minority group outperformed white students on the test, according to

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.