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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American students scored poorly on a national test of science proficiency, a new report said, suggesting a tough road ahead for President Barack Obama's goal of educating a workforce to compete in the global economy.
The results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the Nation's Report Card, showed that only 21 percent of high school seniors were performing at or above the proficient level in science.
About a third of fourth and eighth graders were found to perform at the same level.
"The results released today show that our nation's students aren't learning at a rate that will maintain America's role as an international leader in the sciences," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.
The federal government assessment sampled 156,500 fourth-graders, 151,100 eighth-graders, and 11,100 twelfth-graders.
The figures in the report cannot be easily compared with the past because students were assessed in a new way that includes advances in science and pedagogy, and to bring it in line with international standards.
The Program of International Student Assessment which assesses different types of literacy found that that the United States ranked 13th out 34 developed countries.
China, Korea, Finland, Singapore, and Canada topped the international rankings.
The science test results came on the same day that President Barack Obama is expected to emphasize in his State of the Union Address the importance of education and innovation to bolster America's ability to compete globally.
Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Greg McCune