Nation's high school seniors lagging in reading, math

Only 26 percent of high school seniors are proficient in math while 38 percent are up to speed in reading
Only 26 percent of high school seniors are pr... 02:11

LOS ANGELES -- America's high school seniors got a report card Wednesday that no parent wants to see. The Department of Education found, nationwide, only 26 percent are proficient in math and 38 percent are proficient in reading. The sample comes from 92,000 public and private schools.

The nationwide test is given to high school seniors every four years.

Cornelia Orr
Cornelia Orr CBS News
"If I were a parent and I was wanting my students to do better so the country could compete internationally, I would want to see improvement year after year, and we are not seeing that, so it is very disappointing," says Cornelia Orr, executive director of the board which sets the standards for the test.

Thirteen states released their results. Connecticut did the best, but even there, only half of the students were proficient or above in reading, and just 32 percent in math. West Virginia was at the bottom, with 28 percent proficient or above and reading and 14 percent in math.

There also remains a significant gap in the test results between different racial groups. Forty-seven percent of Asian students were proficient in math; 33 percent of white students, but just 12 percent of Hispanic and 7 percent of black students met the standard.

"We haven't seen the gains that we really want to see," says Daniel Getting, who teaches math at a high school near Los Angeles.

Daniel Gettinger CBS News
Gettinger was named a teacher of the year and is coaching other educators to make sure their students are proficient in the basics of reading and math. In California, statewide tests show proficiency slipped after a decade of improvement.

"I hope that teachers, too, measure their success by students' success," Gettinger says. "That they are willing to take risks and try new things and to adapt their instruction to the needs of the students, because that's what makes the difference."

A national test is also given to fourth and eighth-grade students, and they seem to be doing better. They have shown slow-but-steady progress on the exam since the early 1990s, especially when it comes to math scores.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent based in Washington, D.C.