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Recalling Reagan’s words: “When they graduate high school, they are prepared neither for work nor higher education.”

(Washington, DC) — Precisely 35 years after A Nation at Risk was released this month in 1983, student achievement is either flat or dropping for many US students, according to the results of the latest National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card. Scores from the 2017 NAEP administration saw no significant change from the prior 2015 assessment, save for a one-point increase in 8th grade math scores. The scores should startle Americans:

• READING PROFICIENCY or ABOVE: 4th grade – 37 percent; 8th grade – 36 percent;

• MATH PROFICIENCY or ABOVE: 4th grade – 40 percent; 8th grade – 34 percent;

• Math proficiency declined in 10 states.

Officials report that at the basic level, students have made considerable progress since the 1990s, from 50 percent to 80 percent in 4th grade math, for example. However, basic levels are not acceptable levels for competency in work or life.

“This month 35 years ago, extraordinary findings and bold recommendations for action catalyzed a nation. These scores are a sobering reminder that we remain a nation with far too many children and young adults poorly educated, unprepared to enter college or the workforce, and ultimately, unable to achieve the American Dream of living a rewarding, prosperous life,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO of the Center for Education Reform.

“The NAEP scores show that the need for a fundamental transformation of American education has never been greater, or more urgent.”

In 1983, within days of the Nation at Risk report release, President Ronald Reagan told the nation, “Our education system, once the finest in the world, is in a sorry state of disrepair…13% of our 17-year olds are functionally illiterate, and among minority students it’s close to 40%. More than 2/3 of high school students can’t write an essay.”

“This ‘sorry’ state still largely exists today,” added Allen.

CER Research Fellow Dr. Cara Candal who has studied NAEP trends noted that even when math scores rise in middle school they later stagnate or fall in high school, a critical point in learners’ lives as they seek college admissions and to become productive adults preparing to enter the workforce. “Not only are these flat 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores case for alarm but between 2005 and 2015, 12th grade math and reading scores were also stagnant or showed decline—with very slight upticks in some years and subsequent downward trends.”

The only bright spot in the data released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress today is Florida and Puerto Rico. Florida, in particular, saw unprecedented gains statewide and in two of its largest districts, Miami and Duval counties.

“When innovation and opportunity are kindled, educational success follows,” said Allen. “A Nation at Risk called on us to expand both—it’s high time we responded.”