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      SC math, reading scores still below national average

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- South Carolina students' scores on national math and reading tests haven't changed much in two years and continue to hover below the national average.

      The U.S. Department of Education released data Tuesday showing South Carolina's fourth- and eighth-graders posted scores that were between two and five points below the national average.

      The agency says state scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress taken last spring were not statistically different than the last time students took the tests in 2009.

      South Carolina's education chief is concerned by the results.

      "The state TMs performance in fourth grade reading is especially troubling, said SC Superintendent Mick Zais. If students do not learn how to read in elementary school, they face enormous challenges and barriers throughout the rest of their education. We must emphasize reading because it is the most important subject students need to master to be successful in school.

      The tests are the only ones taken nationwide, allowing for state-by-state comparisons.

      Between 60 percent and 80 percent of South Carolina's fourth- and eighth-graders scored on grade level, depending on the test and grades.

      The state's achievement gap between black and white students hasn't changed significantly since the 1990s.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)