High School Math And Reading Scores Have Been Stagnant Since The 1970’s

Today, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its 2008 Nation’s Report Card, which provides a look at long term trends in the educational achievement of American students.

The report reveals some pretty depressing information. For instance, while both 9 and 13 year-olds made modest gains in math and reading, high school students have been stuck in neutral since the 1970’s (which is when the first assessments were made):

Reading (1971-2008):


Math (1973-2008):


These results eerily mirror America’s college graduation and retention rates, which have also both been stagnant for two decades.

All of this ties back to America’s falling rate of educational attainment, which for young people has slipped to tenth in the world. America’s overall ranking in terms of education has been inflated for some time by the success of previous generations, but in recent decades we’ve been in a holding pattern, while other countries have surged ahead. As Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out, “we’re lifting the basic skills of young kids,” but “not lifting 21st-century skills for the new economy.”

One good step towards fixing all of this could be the Fast Track to College Act, which was introduced last month by Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI). The bill is aimed at streamlining the transition between high school and college, encouraging partnerships between high schools and college, and “exposing [students] to the rigors of college-level work” at an earlier age. The government should also make investments at all levels of the education system to encourage human capital growth and ensure that stagnation doesn’t turn into outright decline.