Education: Mixed Review

Some progress, more needed

First the good news: American students have improved their basic reading, writing, math and science skills over the past 20 years. Now the bad news: few can apply that knowledge in ways that would help them excel in college, get a job or even perform the necessary tasks of daily life. "We have a solid foundation of basic skills," says Archie Lapointe, executive director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (N.A.E.P.), which last week issued a far-ranging study on the subject. "But there is stagnation as far as high- order thinking skills are concerned."

The report, titled Crossroads in American...

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