WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's fourth-graders are getting better at reading, but its seniors are getting worse.
Fourth-graders in 2002 showed significant reading gains compared with 1998, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- known as the nation's report card -- released Thursday. It is those younger students who are at the center of a national push to improve basic education.
But then comes the shift: eighth-graders showed no reading improvement over the four-year period, and 12th-graders showed declines at every level, from basic to advanced readers.
Overall, less than a third of fourth-graders (31 percent) and eighth-graders (33 percent) showed they could understand and analyze challenging material. That skill level, defined as proficient, is the focal point of the test. Among high-school seniors, 36 percent hit that mark, down from 40 percent in 1998.
The up-and-down results drew expectedly mixed reaction from education officials.
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