The results are in from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Formally called The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008, this 40-year ongoing project of the U.S. Department of Education has periodically assessed educational progress in various subjects since the early 1970s.

This long-term trend assessment studied progress in reading and mathematics among students aged 9, 13 and 17 since the previous assessment carried out in 2004. Average reading scores in all three groups increased since 2004, and scores for the 9- and 13-year-olds show a modest increase since 1971. The average reading score for 17-year-olds was not significantly different from the score in 1971.

Average mathematics scores for 9- and 13-year-olds increased since 2004 and show a modest increase since 1973. The average mathematics score for 17-year-olds showed no increase from 2004 and was not significantly different from the score in 1973. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education (Washington) says these results suggest that gains made by younger students are “washing out” as they get older. You can find the complete report at http://nces.ed.gov.

Any increase is good, of course, but most of the scores show an increase of only 5 percent to 10 percent since the early 1970s. Worse yet, there is no improvement among 17-year-olds. This is hardly acceptable for a nation that has long prided itself on its technological leadership. In fact, Susan Traiman, director of public policy at the Business Roundtable (Washington) is quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying, “The report really reinforces the fact that high-school reform is long overdue.”

School choice is a high priority for most reform advocates, and policies that give parents the ability to exercise private-school choice continue to proliferate across the country, according to The Heritage Foundation (Washington). On Capitol Hill, however, progress in expanding parental choice in education remains slow. Indeed, Congress recently approved legislative action that threatens to phase out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally funded initiative that currently helps 1,700 disadvantaged children attend private schools in the nation’s capital.

While only 11 percent of American students attend private schools, a recent survey by the Foundation revealed that 44 percent of senators and 36 percent of representatives have sent or are sending their children to private schools. Writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn suggests that the biggest problem faced by parents who seek the opportunity for school choice is this “smarmy double standard” prevalent in the Beltway.

Those who are elected, or appointed, to act in the best interests of America’s most important natural resource-her children-seem to believe that substandard or failing public schools are fine for your children, but not for theirs. America cannot afford this “do as I say, not as I do” approach to education policy.