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Math, Science Scores Show Plus Signs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Elementary and secondary school math and science test scores, the target of a decade-long improvement effort, have returned to levels that in some cases have not been seen in 20 years, according to a national study released Wednesday.

Similar gains are not evident in test scores for reading and writing, the government reports. Scores for those subjects, however, had not fallen as far as math and science during the 1970s and 1980s.

The new findings, announced by Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, suggest that while the trend is moving in the right direction, the pace of improvement is much too slow to prepare U.S. children for the future workplace.

“Holding our own in the Information Age is simply not good enough,” Riley told reporters. “We live in an unprecedented era of new knowledge, and our children must be prepared for the future.”

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The results were derived from a report by the Education Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been tracking academic achievement since the early 1970s. The assessment looks at test scores by students in three age groups.

In 1983, a startling report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education described a downward trend in math and science performance through the 1970s that gave a strong boost to education reform movements.

The report, titled “A Nation at Risk,” said American students were falling into an academic wasteland of remedial classes and low expectations, while students in other industrialized nations were taking more challenging courses.

On Wednesday, Mark D. Musick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said: “We’re beginning to see some payoffs. It takes a long time to see the results.”

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