WASHINGTON - US fourth-graders have lost ground in reading ability compared with children around the world, according to results of a global reading test.
Test results released yesterday showed that US students, who took the test last year, scored about the same as they did in 2001, the last time the test was given - despite an increased emphasis on reading under the No Child Left Behind law.
The International Study Center at Boston College conducts the international reading literacy study.
Still, the US average score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy test remained above the international average. Ten countries or jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and three Canadian provinces, were ahead of the United States this time. In 2001, only three countries were ahead of the United States.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test students annually in reading and math, and imposes sanctions on schools that miss testing goals.
The US performance on the international test of 45 nations or jurisdictions differed somewhat from results of a US national reading test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card. Fourth-grade reading scores rose modestly on the most recent version of that test, taken earlier this year and measuring growth since 2005. During the previous two-year period, scores were flat.
On the latest international exam, US students posted a lower average score than students in Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy, and Sweden, along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario.
Last time, Russia, Hong Kong, and Singapore were behind the United States.
Hong Kong and Singapore have taken steps since then, such as increasing teacher preparation, providing more tutoring, and raising public awareness about the importance of reading, said Ina Mullis, codirector of the International Study Center.
Among jurisdictions that took the test in 2001 and 2006, scores improved in Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.
Average test scores declined in England, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Romania, and Sweden. England, the Netherlands, and Sweden were the top three performers in 2001. Sweden still outperformed the United States this time, but average scores in England and the Netherlands were not measurably different from the US average.