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NATION’S REPORT CARD: Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students Post Record Scores in Reading and Math, but Large Percentages Still Fall Short of Proficient Levels

Rating
“If America’s students are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, our public schools must greatly accelerate the rate of progress of the last four years and do more to narrow America’s large achievement gaps,” Duncan said.

The reading and math results released on November 7 from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, were cause for celebration and concern. On the bright side, the average reading and math scores posted by the nation’s fourth- and eighth-grade students were at an all-time high. At the same time, however, only 36 percent of the nation’s eighth-grade students scored at a “proficient” level in both reading and math. Similarly, only 35 percent (reading) and 42 percent (math) of fourth graders scored at the “proficient” level.

In his official statement on the results, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan opted for the middle ground, praising local leaders and educators for “raising standards and driving innovation” while saying that the report card provides “encouraging but modest signs of progress.”

As shown in the chart to the right, the average eighth-grade reading score was higher in 2013 than in all previous assessment years and increased by 3 points—the largest jump since 1998—compared to 2011. At the fourth-grade level, the average score was not significantly different from the all-time high posted in 2011. (Click on the image below for a larger version).

NAEP8thGradeReadingIn math, the average eighth-grade score was also higher than all previous assessment years and continues a steady increase that began in 2003. Among fourth graders, the 2013 average math score was also higher than in any other year. (Click on the image below for a larger version).

NAEP8thGradeMath

Among students of color, both black and Hispanic eighth graders posted average reading scores that were higher than in any previous assessment year. Even with these gains, however, the achievement gaps between their scores and those of white students remain large. On average, the score posted by black eighth graders (250) was 26 points lower than that of white students (276). Meanwhile, the gap between Hispanic eighth graders’ average reading score and that of their white counterparts continued to narrow, falling from 25 points in 2007 to 21 points in 2013. Asians/Pacific Islanders posted the highest average reading score (280). The achievement gap between students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and those who were not has remained at about 25 points since they were first measured in 2002.

Average Eighth-Grade Reading Scores by Student Subgroup

 

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

Asian/Pacific Islander

271

271

274

275

280

White

271

272

273

274

276

Hispanic

246

247

249

252

256

Amer. Indian/Alaskan Native

249

247

251

252

251

Black

243

245

246

249

250

Free/Reduced-Price Lunch–Not Eligible

270

271

273

275

278

Free/Reduced-Priced Lunch–Eligible

247

247

249

252

254

Duncan said it was “very troubling” that achievement gaps failed to narrow between 2011 and 2013 and noted that U.S. students are still “well behind” their peers from top-performing nations in math and reading.

“If America’s students are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, our public schools must greatly accelerate the rate of progress of the last four years and do more to narrow America’s large achievement gaps,” Duncan said. “It is an urgent moral and economic imperative that our schools do a better job of preparing students for today’s globally competitive world.”

The complete results are available at http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/.

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