"The 2013 NAEP report card provides encouraging but modest signs of progress in reading and math for U.S. students.
"In 2013, reading and math scores edged up nationally to new highs for fourth and eighth graders. It is particularly heartening that reading scores for eighth graders are up, after remaining relatively flat for the last decade.
"Achievement among the largest minority group in our nation's public schools--Hispanic students--is also up since 2011. And higher-achieving students as a whole are making more progress in reading and math than in recent years.
"While progress on the NAEP continues to vary among the states, all eight states that had implemented the state-crafted Common Core State Standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessment showed improvement in at least one of the Reading and/or Mathematics assessments from 2009 to 2013--and none of the eight states had a decline in scores.
"Given the rapid and comprehensive changes that America's educators are implementing in classrooms across the nation, it is to their credit that we are seeing the strongest performance in the history of the NAEP.
"Our national progress makes me optimistic that local leaders and educators are showing the way to raising standards and driving innovation in the next few years. It is encouraging to see progress in tough economic times, when so many states and local communities have struggled with significant cuts to their education budgets.
"Among states that are making progress, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii made noteworthy gains in eighth grade and fourth grade in reading and/or math from 2011 to 2013.
"Signs of progress on the NAEP--known as the nation's report card--are especially compelling because they cannot be attributed to teaching to the test or testing irregularities, such as cheating.
"While fourth and eighth grade achievement in math and reading has edged upward nationally since 2011, the increases are generally modest.
"And while students in each racial group identified in the NAEP showed improvement in some areas, it is very troubling that achievement gaps between white and black students, and white and Hispanic students, failed to narrow from 2011 to 2013.
"Even with the modest increase in math and reading achievement on the 2013 NAEP, U.S. students are still well behind their peers in top-performing nations.
"If America's students are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, our public schools must greatly accelerate the rate of progress of the last four years and do more to narrow America's large achievement gaps. It is an urgent moral and economic imperative that our schools do a better job of preparing students for today's globally-competitive world."