The average eighth-grade reading score on a nationally representative test declined among public school students in 31 states, according to data released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, The New York Times reported.
The disappointing results were part of the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a test assessing a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students every other year.
On average, reading scores declined for eighth graders nationwide by 3 points compared to 2017, according to U.S. News & World Report, which added that the drop in scores is not due to one specific student subgroup, as almost all of them registered declines.
"Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest performing students are doing worse," said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the center, which is the research arm of the Education Department.
"The fact that students who need to make the most academic progress are instead making no progress or are falling further behind is extremely troubling," said Tonya Matthews, vice chairwoman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who supports a $5 billion school choice program, said the results "must be America's wake-up call," adding that "We can neither excuse them away, nor simply throw more money at the problem."
Democrats have championed a different solution, with all the leading candidates for the party's presidential nomination proposing spending billions of more federal dollars on traditional public schools in order to improve the situation.
American students made small gains in reading beginning in 1990, but those improvements started to level out around 2009.
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