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SEATTLE -- More Washington fourth and eighth graders are passing a national test for math and reading, but results released Thursday show black and Hispanic students continue to lag well behind their white and Asian classmates.

Washington students overall beat the national average in every age and subject category on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the Nation's Report Card.

In Washington, 48 percent of fourth graders and 42 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 40 percent of fourth graders and 42 percent of eighth graders hit that mark

Nationally, 42 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth graders and 36 percent of eighth graders hit that mark.

Washington's scores were among the best in the nation. The tests are given every two years to a sample of fourth and eighth graders across the nation.

This year's results, compared with results in 2011, show average incremental gains of three points in fourth grade math, four points in fourth grade reading, two points in eighth grade math and four points in eighth grade reading.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said he was particularly impressed with student improvement in eighth-grade reading, where only two states scored statistically higher.

I'm impressed with the movement in scores this year, Dorn said in a statement. But he added he continued to be concerned about gaps between various groups, including students just learning English.

These tests allow educators to compare educational knowledge of students nationally, because unlike state-specific tests, the National Assessment of Educational Progress uses the same test questions in every state.

Washington's black students scored well below classmates in the state, but did significantly better than many black students across the nation. For example, 29 percent of Washington black students scored at or above proficient in fourth grade math, compared with 18 percent nationally.

The same could not be said for Washington's Hispanic students. Only 24 percent scored at or above the proficient level on the fourth grade math test, compared with 26 percent nationally.

As Dorn points out, the differences are particularly stark for English Language Learners, or immigrant students just learning to read and speak English. For example, only 3 percent of eighth-graders just learning English scored at or above proficient on the reading test in Washington state, while 44 percent of all other students hit the mark.

The numbers are no better in math: 5 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of all other eighth graders.

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