U.S. high-school students haven’t achieved any significant gains in reading or math for nearly four decades, according to a new federal report that underscores the challenges the Obama administration faces as it pressures schools to raise standards to produce a more competitive work force.

The report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress — a highly respected federal test also known as the “Nation’s Report Card” — looked at NAEP results for 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds since the early 1970s, when the tests in math and reading were first given.

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