A NATIONAL reading survey says only one-third of high school students are proficient readers.
But educators refused to shoulder all the blame, saying too many students prefer the fuzzy glow of the TV to the crisp pages of a novel.
Education Secretary Richard Riley says the study shows students are spending ''too much time watching mind-numbing television.'' Mr. Riley wants more emphasis on reading in school and at home.
The test was given early last year to fourth-, eighth-, and 12th graders in 40 states. Students were judged to be at the advance, proficient, or basic reading levels, or below.
About 30 percent of the high school seniors failed to reach even the basic level. The high school scores were down from a national test given in 1992.
''Far too few students are reaching the proficient level of reading achievement in any grade,'' says James Ellingson, a fourth-grade teacher on the test governing board. ''Average achievement is either stuck or going down.''
That contrasts with scores on the math version of the National Assessment of Educational Process, which have been rising over the past decade, he says.
In other results, girls read better than boys, and private school students did better than public school students.
Twelfth-grade scores declined for white, black, and Hispanic students, and for students in private schools as well as public schools.