WASHINGTON — The nation’s report card on math and reading shows fourth- and eighth-graders scoring their best ever in math and eighth-graders making some progress in reading.

But the National Assessment of Educational Progress results released Tuesday are a reminder of just how far U.S. schoolchildren are from the No Child Left Behind law’s goal that every child in America be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Just a little more than one-third of the students were proficient or higher in reading. In math, 40 percent of the fourth-graders and 35 percent of the eighth-graders were at that level.

“The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

There were few noticeable changes in the gap between white and black pupils from 2009. While the gap is smaller than in the early 1990s, the new results reflect a 25-point difference between white and black fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and fourth-graders in math.

But Hispanic eighth-graders narrowed the gap with white students in both math and reading. In reading, the gap was 22 points in 2011, compared to 26 in 1992 and 24 in 2009.