WASHINGTON (AP) — In an abysmal showing, only about one-quarter of U.S. high school seniors performed solidly in math in a major assessment known as the nation's report card, reinforcing concerns that large numbers of students are unprepared for either college or the workplace.
In reading, almost 4 in 10 students reached the "proficient" level or higher.
In both subjects on the 2013 exam there was little change from 2009, when the National Assessment of Educational Progress was last given to 12th-graders. The results, released Wednesday, come from a representative sample of 92,000 public and private school students.
The stagnation is "unacceptable," said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the exam.
"Achievement at this very critical point in a student's life must be improved to ensure success after high school," Driscoll said.
The results follow the just-released and seemingly more encouraging research that U.S. high school graduation rates in 2012 reached 80 percent, a record.
John Easton, acting commissioner of the Education's Department's National Center for Education Statistics, said one possible reason was that lower-performing students who in the past would have dropped out remained in the sampling of students who took the exam.
In reading, the 38 percent share of students performing at or above proficient was lower than when the assessment was first given in 1992, when it was 40 percent. Scores have remained similar since 1994.
Past comparisons in math date only to 2005. Scores increased from 2005 to 2009.
The student participants' response to a survey about their educational experiences offers some clues to their performance.
Among the findings:
—Students who reported rarely or never discussing reading interpretations in class had average scores lower than those who did daily or almost daily.
—An overwhelming majority reported that reading is enjoyable. Students who strongly disagreed with the idea that reading is enjoyable had an average score much lower than those who strongly agreed.