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A third-grade teacher with her class in a Chicago school. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Well we often hear how important a solid education is if you want to get a job in this economy. And a study out this morning sheds some light on how well Americans are being educated. The study from the Department of Education says elementary school students are getting better at math, but their reading skills are lagging.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: Math scores continued a 20-year rise, says the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. It tested hundreds of thousands of fourth graders and eighth graders earlier this year. The board that runs the test called overall reading scores "deeply disappointing." Lackluster test scores are often seen as a bad omen for how well U.S. workers compete with those overseas.

Georgetown public policy professor Harry Holzer says math and reading scores are probably not as important as we think they are.

Harry Holzer: We not only want kids who can read and write. We want kids who can think... And perform a pretty wide range of applied tasks, and communicate.

He says it is important to get test scores up, though, because that helps more students get into college. And more college educated workers would boost the economy overall.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

Follow Eve Troeh at @evetroeh