SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California public school students’ math and reading scores on standardized tests rank below most other states.

Scores for 4th- and 8th-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were in the bottom tier for both subjects.

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Fourth graders scored just ahead of the District of Columbia, New Mexico and Alabama.

Eighth graders fared better, scoring above ten other states — Florida, Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and the District of Columbia.

Massachusetts had the highest scores in both grade levels.

Referred to as The Nation’s Report Card, this year marks the first time since the 1990s, NAEP scores for 4th- and 8th-grade declined nationally.

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This year’s sudden reversal “isn’t good” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Los Angeles Times. He blames the downward trend on “chaos from curricular changes in schools as districts teach new academic standards.”

Bill Ainsworth, a spokesperson for California’s Department of Education was not as disturbed by the scores. He told the San Jose Mercury that NAEP tests are not “completely aligned with the Common Core State Standards… Consequently, we do not believe they are a good measure of California students’ progress.”

The NAEP tests are administered to a sampling of 4th- and 8th-grade students. Students who take the tests are chosen at random and individual results are not released. The results are for public school students only. writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.

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