High school reading and math scores haven’t improved, blacks and Hispanics lag behind

Robby Soave | Reporter

A major assessment of students’ math and reading scores found that high schoolers had not improved in the last 40 years, despite gains at other age levels and a narrowing of academic gaps between races.

Kids ages 9 and 13 made modest gains in reading and math since 1971, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But 17-year-olds’ scores remained constant over the 40-year time period. Brent Houston, who serves on the board for the assessment, found this surprising, given that an increasing proportion of their parents had attended college.

“If parents are achieving more, you’d think that older students in particular would be achieving at higher levels,” he said in a statement to U.S. News and World Report.

High school students’ stagnant scores are starkly at odds with their average grades — which have trended dramatically upward in recent decades — and their opinions of themselves. The average teenager thinks he is above average, and most view themselves as smarter than the previous generation’s teens, even though they study less and score the same or worse on standardized tests.

“It shows that high schools aren’t doing a great job,” said Mark Schneider, vice president at the American Institutes for Research, in a statement to The Huffington Post. “Schools are lying about the quality of the education they’re giving: They call pre-algebra algebra, they call algebra calculus, they’re giving higher grades in teaching watered-down curricula — because we’ve told them to get better.”

The assessment also found that black and Hispanic students’ scores improved over time. The achievement gap between white students and minority students narrowed between 1871 and 2008. Little progress, however, was made between 2008 and 2012, and minority students are still only scoring as well as white students from a generation ago.

“If we have a crisis in American education, it is this: That we aren’t yet moving fast enough to educate the ‘minorities’ who will soon comprise a ‘new majority’ of our children nearly as well as we educate the old majority,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, in a statement.

While the white-Hispanic achievement was cut in half from 1971 to 2008, Hispanic students’ math and reading proficiency did not improve in the last four years.

The Senate recently approved a bill that would grant legal residency to millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, a group that is mostly Hispanic.

A writer for Mamiverse, a Latina news website, used the assessment’s findings to argue for more government spending on education and higher pay for teachers.

“It’s time politicians focused on changing the system, offer better training for teachers, better teacher pay, special programs for urban schools and students of color, and a change in the attitude where teachers and schools are no longer demonized,” wrote Phillippe Diedriche, a Latino journalist.

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