WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s schoolkids turned in a lackluster performance on national tests, with math scores for fourth and eighth graders declining for the first time in 25 years. Reading scores were not much better: flat for fourth graders and lower for eighth graders than two years ago.

The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress also shows students have a ways to go to demonstrate a solid grasp or mastery of their reading and math skills, with weak levels of proficiency for both grades.

Here are some things to know:

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THE SCORES

In math, fourth-grade students had an average score of 240 points on a 500-point scale. That’s down one point from 2013. For eighth grade, the average score was 282 points, down 2 points. The drops mark the first declines in math since the test was first administered in 1990.

Reading scores averaged 223 points for fourth grade, flat from two years ago, and 265 points for eighth graders, 2 points lower.

Forty percent of fourth-grade students were at or above proficiency in math this year, down 2 points. For eighth graders, only 33 percent of students were proficient or better in math, also a 2-point decline.

Thirty-six percent of fourth graders were at or above the proficient level in reading, about the same as 2013. Only 34 percent of eighth-grade students were proficient or better in reading, a 2-point drop.

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THE BRIGHT SPOTS

The District of Columbia and Mississippi notched up some substantial gains. Credit goes to fourth graders.

Fourth-grade math scores in D.C. and Mississippi were up 3 points for each. Reading scores also were higher in fourth grade, with D.C. up 7 points and Mississippi up 6 points.

Another state of note: At the eighth-grade level, reading improved in West Virginia by 3 points. It was the only state with higher scores.

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WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged parents, teachers, and others not to panic as states embrace higher academic standards, such as Common Core. “We should expect scores in this period to bounce around some, and I think that ‘implementation dip’ is part of what we’re seeing here,” he said.

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said the “higher academic standards caused the states and teachers and districts to change the way they’re teaching certain things” and cautioned that one year’s worth of data does not make a trend.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the scores “should give pause to anyone who still wishes to double down on austerity and make competition, scapegoating teachers, closing rather than fixing schools, fear, and testing and sanctioning the dominant education strategies.”

Republican Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said the disappointing scores “show that the No Child Left Behind federal law and waivers are no longer helping our students improve their performance.”

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A STUBBORN ACHIEVEMENT GAP

There were no significant changes in the achievement gap for reading between white students and their black and Hispanic peers.

But for math, there was a small narrowing between white fourth graders and their black peers. The average score for white students was 24 points higher, slightly smaller than the 26-point gap in 2013.

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THE TEST

The assessment is a national measure of what students know in math and reading, dating back to 1990. Tests were administered in January through March and are given every two years. About 139,000 fourth-graders and 136,900 eighth-graders took the math test. The reading test was given to 139,100 fourth-graders and 136,500 eighth-graders.

Joseph C. Moore, USN Ret. says

American children are likely getting less intelligent due to the poor nourishment of our food supply and the poisoning with the excessive vaccinations and medications. The systematic dumbing down of the schools to create inflated scores of non educated children so that the inadequate schooling is hidden.

James says

There are 2 words that say it all… Common Core. Go here to see some examples for addition… http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/common-core-math-problems/ This crap would confuse anyone. In 4th grade we had to memorize (oh horrors!). I had to tutor my youngest daughter and help her memorize to get through math (she got As after a bit). As far as I am concerned Common Core is for teachers who can’t teach, and like to confuse students to hide that fact.

One more example, I went to a store recently and bought something for $0.98 (our sales tax is 7%) so I got out a dollar and a nickle. The cashier said that will be a dollar five. I handed her the money. She looked at it, did a “double take” looked at me and said how did you do that? I simply told her “in my head”, smiled, thanked her and left.

Harley says

You are sooo right. What they don’t tell you in this article is that the tests are changing to meet the common core strategies that would confuse anyone. I feel so sorry for the kids who have to ride this out and lose their education in the meantime. And you are very wrong to say this is for teachers that can’t teach. Even the good ones can barely understand what the hell they are expected to do with Common Core.

And the cost to schools for this amazing new curriculum that they must use…check it out. ITs sinful! Who’s relatives in government will benefit from this?

Candace Pailer says

I was a school teacher for 30 years.. Why are they not learning? Simple no discipline,,no moral authority,no respect for teachers or parents. Also the break-up of family’s and taking prayer out of schools.

Harley says

They also live with technology day in and out. They play games, games, games, so do they want to sit and learn something as boring as math or english…Hell no.

Justin Wachin says

I guess Common Core isn’t as great as we’ve been led to believe.

Connie Ellis says

We have been “dumbing down” our schools for years and that should be no secret to anyone; especially to those who have children in public schools. Teachers will pass a student just to “get rid of him/her” regardless of whether or not a particular subject has been mastered. COMMON CORE IS A JOKE! That’s just one more nail in the “dumbing down coffin”. How many of you have children at the elementary school level that are being taught using Common Core standards? Can you even help them with their homework? I have seen how my grandchildren are supposed to derive an answer for a common addition problem. It

Connie Ellis says

continued from above….. It’s the most asinine way to teach that I have ever seen. I can just visualize the CEO of a company doing Common Core math. What a joke that would be. Those of us who were lucky enough to be schooled BCC (before Common Core) were the luckiest of all. Get rid of Common Core, teachers START TEACHING instead of babysitting and you’ll see the test scores of our children go up.

Big Don says

Americans AS A WHOLE are getting dumber.