U.S. school children achieve best ever maths scores (but that's still behind target)

  • Government hope to make every American child proficient in maths and reading by 2014
  • Best ever results in maths, but children still behind national target
  • Hawaii the only state where maths and reading scores increased for both fourth and eighth graders

Newly-released maths scores have revealed that U.S. fourth and eighth grade children are doing better than ever in the subject - but are still behind national targets.

The U.S. government's 'No Child Left Behind' law aims to make every child in America proficient in maths and reading by 2014.

Results issued today show that in maths, 40 per cent of fourth-grade students and 35 per cent in the eighth grade have currently reached that level.

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Goal: The U.S. hope to make every child in America proficient in maths and reading by 2014

Goal: The U.S. hope to make every child in America proficient in maths and reading by 2014

Just over a third of students in the U.S. are proficient or higher in reading.
In 2011, fourth and eighth-graders posted the highest maths scores ever on the national assessment test, with the grade four students gaining a single point over 2009 scores and 28 points over 1990, when testing began.

Among eighth-graders, average math scores climbed by a single point over 2009 and by 21 points over 1990.

In reaction to the scores issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said they were 'reason for concern as much as optimism'.

He said in a statement: 'While student achievement is up since 2009 in both grades in mathematics and in 8th grade reading, it’s clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation’s children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st Century.

'After significant NAEP gains in the 1990s, particularly in mathematics, the 2011 results continue a pattern of modest progress.'

Enlarge   A graph shows the gradual improvement on U.S. school pupils in maths since 1990

A graph shows the gradual improvement on U.S. school pupils in maths since 1990

Enlarge   On the up: Eighth grade U.S. children are also showing a marked improvement in maths in the past 20 years

On the up: Eighth grade U.S. children are also showing a marked improvement in maths in the past 20 years

Enlarge   Statistics show the percentage of U.S. fourth grade children who are above the basic level in maths (dark green), above proficient (pale green) and at advanced levels (mid green)

Statistics show the percentage of U.S. fourth grade children who are above the basic level in maths (dark green), above proficient (pale green) and at advanced levels (mid green)

Enlarge   While more eighth graders are also achieving good maths scores, their proficiency is still behind national targets

While more eighth graders are also achieving good maths scores, their proficiency is still behind national targets

The Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics administers the test every two years.

The only U.S. state where student scores in maths and reading increased at both fourth and eighth grade level in the past two years was Hawaii.


'Reason for both concern and optimism'

New York was the only state to score lower in math among fourth-graders in 2011, compared to 2009.

David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said: 'Over the past two decades major gains have occurred in mathematics achievement, but only modest improvements in reading.'

Despite better math scores, progress has slowed and achievement gaps between races remain 'unacceptably wide,' he said.

There were few noticeable changes in the achievement gap between white and black students from 2009.

The data for maths results in the U.S. is collected every two years from the National Assessment of Educational Progress

The data for maths results in the U.S. is collected every two years from the National Assessment of Educational Progress

While the gap is smaller than in the early 1990s, the new test results reflect a 25-point difference between white and black fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and fourth-graders in math.

However, Hispanic students in eighth grade made some small strides to narrow the gap with white students in both math and reading.

The results, known as The Nation's Report Card, also revealed that Asian students, this year for the first time in their own category, had the highest scores of any single group.

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