Do schools do enough to challenge our kids? A new study from the Center For American Progress finds that New Jersey students say schoolwork is far too easy.

The report found that 40 percent of fourth graders say their math work is often or always too easy. Almost a third of middle-schoolers report they read less than five pages a day at home or at school. And in a competitive global economy where the mastery of science is increasingly crucial, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they are not being taught engineering and technology, according to the analysis of a federal database.

"Over the past few years, many states have engaged in promising reforms that address the issues raised by this report. But our findings suggest we need to do far more to improve the learning experience for all students," said Ulrich Boser, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. "We hope that the findings and recommendations outlined in this report foster new and better ways to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed."

Boser said it gets worse when it comes to reading.

"In New Jersey, 21 percent of students reported that they read fewer than five pages per that's better than the national average of 30 percent, but there is still a large percentage of students that are not doing a lot of reading either in school or at home."

A significant number of students across grade levels say they do not understand what their teacher is saying.

"They are not engaged in the classroom, they are not following what their teacher is saying and they don't get it quite frankly, which is a very disturbing trend to see across the country" added Boser.

Boser said recommendations include:

  • Policymakers must continue to push for higher, more challenging standards. Districts, states, and the federal government must invest in raising the bar so all students graduate from high school ready for college and the workplace. This includes expecting more of teachers, parents, and our schools.
  • Students need more rigorous learning opportunities, and our nation needs to figure out ways to provide all students with the teachers-and the teaching-that they deserve. For instance, we need to do more to promote next-generation teacher evaluation systems that give teachers the feedback that they need.
  • Researchers and educators should continue to develop student surveys. While the National Assessment of Educational Progress surveys clearly tell us something about students' experiences in their classroom, more sophisticated survey instruments must be developed to capture student perspectives.

"We hear that students are overworked and underplayed and the fact is that students are not being challenged."