American elementary school students have improved their math skills considerably, with 20% more fourth graders scoring "proficient" on standardized math tests than in 1990, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Reading skills show more modest gains. The number of students scoring proficient in reading has increased only 4% since 1992.
Eighth graders also showed modest improvements in math and reading. The results are promising, but some critics worry that schools' specialized focus on math and reading to raise test scores could backfire. They fear students may miss out on years of preparation for more complex topics like science and history.