U.S. elementary and middle school students have sharpened their reading and math skills since the 1970s, while 17-year-olds stagnated, federal tests show.
Almost half of 9-year-olds knew basic arithmetic last year, up from 20 percent in 1978, according to a U.S. Education Department report. Yet, only 7 percent of 17-year-olds solved routine problems involving fractions, percents, algebra, exponents and square roots, the same level as 34 years earlier.
The results of the test, called the Nation’s Report Card, follow decades of government efforts to improve achievement in education led by presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Congress is also debating how to rewrite No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s 2002 law focusing on testing to hold schools accountable for their results.