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The Nation's Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000

April 2001

Authors: Patricia L. Donahue, Robert J. Finnegan, Anthony D. Lutkus, Nancy L. Allen, and Jay R. Campbell

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Executive Summary

Table of Contents:
Reading Scale Score and Achievement Level Results for the Nation
Results for Student Subgroups
School and Home Contexts for Learning
Transitioning to a More Inclusive NAEP

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the nation's only federally mandated survey of student achievement in various subject areas. Authorized by Congress and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education, NAEP regularly reports to the public on the educational progress of students in grades 4, 8, and 12. In 2000, NAEP conducted a national reading assessment of fourth-grade students.

This report presents the results of the 2000 NAEP fourth-grade reading assessment for the nation. Results in 2000 are compared to results of previous NAEP reading assessments. Students' performance on the assessment is described in terms of average scores on a 0-500 scale, and in terms of the percentage of students attaining three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The achievement levels are performance standards adopted by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) as part of its statutory responsibilities. They are collective judgments of what students should know and be able to do.

As provided by law, the Commissioner of Education Statistics, upon review of a congressionally mandated evaluation of NAEP, determined that the achievement levels are to be considered developmental and should be interpreted and used with caution. However, both the Acting Commissioner and the Board believe these performance standards are useful for understanding trends in student achievement. They have been widely used by national and state officials, including the National Education Goals Panel, as a common yardstick of academic performance.

In addition to providing average scores and achievement level performance in reading for the nation's fourth-graders, this report provides results for subgroups of fourth-grade students defined by various background and contextual characteristics. A summary of major findings from the 2000 NAEP reading assessment is presented on the following pages.


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Reading Scale Score and Achievement Level Results for the Nation

The reading performance of the nation's fourth-graders has remained relatively stable across assessment years. In 2000, the national average scale score of 217 was similar to that in 1992.

Although the national average scale score has remained relatively stable, significant changes are evident at the upper and lower ends of the performance distribution. Higher performing students have made progress: scores at the 75th and 90th percentiles in 2000 were significantly higher than 1992. In contrast, the score at the 10th percentile in 2000 was significantly lower than 1992.

In 2000, the percentage of fourth-grade students performing at or above the Basic level of reading achievement was 63 percent. Performance at or above the Proficient level -- the level identified by NAGB as the level that all students should reach -- was achieved by 32 percent of fourth-graders. The highest level of performance, the Advanced level, was achieved by 8 percent of fourth-graders.

In 2000, the percentages of fourth-graders performing at or above Proficient and at Advanced were higher than in 1992.


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Results for Student Subgroups

Gender

  • In 2000, female fourth-grade students had a higher average score than their male peers. The scale-score gap between males and females widened since 1998.

  • The percentage of females at or above the Proficient level exceeded that of males.

  • The percentage of female fourth-graders at or above the Proficient level in 2000 was higher than in 1992.

Race/Ethnicity

  • In 2000, white and Asian/Pacific Islander students outperformed their black, Hispanic, and American Indian peers.

  • A significant increase was observed in the average scale score of Asian/Pacific Islander students, whose 2000 score was higher than in 1992. The 2000 average score of black students was significantly higher in comparison to 1994.

  • The percentages of white and Asian/Pacific Islander students at or above the Proficient level exceeded that of other racial/ethnic groups.

  • Only among Asian/Pacific Islander students was an increase observed in the percentage at or above Proficient since 1992.

Region

  • The 2000 results by region show fourth-grade students in the Northeast and Central regions outperforming their counterparts in the Southeast and the West.

  • Among students in the Northeast, the average scale score in 2000 was higher in comparison to 1994.

  • Students in the Northeast and Central regions had higher percentages of students at or above the Proficient level than the Southeast. The Northeast region had a higher percentage of students at or above Proficient than the West.

Type of Location

  • Fourth-grade students in central city schools had a lower average score in 2000 than their peers who attended schools in urban fringe/large town and rural/small town locations.

  • Comparisons of achievement level results between locations show a lower percentage of central city students at or above the Proficient level than their peers in other types of location.

Eligibility for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch

  • In 2000, students who were eligible for the free/reduced-price lunch program had a lower average score than students who were ineligible for the program.

  • Achievement level results also show lower performance among students eligible for the program. In 2000, 14 percent of eligible students performed at or above the Proficient level in comparison to 41 percent of noneligible students.

Type of School

  • Consistent with past NAEP reading assessments, the 2000 results indicated that students attending public schools had lower average reading scale scores than their peers attending nonpublic schools.

  • A lower percentage of public school students performed at or above the Proficient level in comparison to nonpublic school students.

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School and Home Contexts for Learning

Pages Read in School and for Homework

  • Fourth-graders who reported reading more pages daily in school and for homework had higher average scores than students who reported reading fewer pages daily.

  • The 2000 results indicate that more fourth-grade students are reading eleven or more pages in school and for homework on a daily basis than in 1992 and 1994.

Time Spent Doing Homework

  • Fourth-graders who reported spending a moderate amount of time on homework -- one-half hour or one hour daily -- had higher average scores than students who reported that they spent more than an hour or that they either did not have or did not do homework.

  • The percentage of students in 2000 who reported that they do not have homework was lower in comparison to 1992 and 1994.

Writing about Reading

  • Fourth-graders who reported writing long answers to questions on tests and assignments that involved reading on a weekly or monthly basis had higher average scores than students who reported doing so once or twice a year, or never or hardly ever.

  • In the 2000 assessment, reports by fourth-graders indicate an increase in the frequency of writing about reading on a weekly basis in comparison to 1994.

Teachers' Help with Words

  • Fourth-grade students who reported that their teachers never or hardly ever helped them break words into parts scored higher than their peers who reported receiving such help daily or weekly.

  • Fourth-graders who reported that their teachers helped them understand new words on a weekly or monthly basis scored higher than those who reported receiving this help daily or never or hardly ever.

Reading for Fun

  • Students who reported reading for fun on their own time every day had higher average scores than students who reported reading for fun less frequently.

  • In 2000, 75 percent of fourth-grade students reported reading for fun on their own time at least weekly.

Discussing Studies and Talking about Reading

  • Students who reported discussing their studies at home daily, weekly, or monthly had higher average scores than students who reported never or hardly ever having such discussions.

  • Students who reported talking about their reading with family and friends on a weekly basis had a higher average score than students who reported engaging in such conversations daily, monthly, or never or hardly ever.

  • In 2000, 61 percent of fourth-grade students reported talking about their reading with family or friends at least weekly.

Reading Materials in the Home

  • The average score for students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedia) in their home was higher than those who reported having fewer reading materials.

  • In 2000, a lower percentage of students reported having all four types of reading materials in the home in comparison to 1994.

Time Spent Watching Television

  • Students who reported watching three or fewer hours of television each day outperformed students who reported watching more television.

  • In 2000, the percentages of students who reported watching four or more hours of television daily has decreased since 1994 and the percentages of students reporting watching three hours or less has increased since 1994.

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Transitioning to a More Inclusive NAEP

  • A second set of results from the 2000 NAEP reading assessment represents the performance of students when testing accommodations are permitted for special-needs students.

  • A comparison of the two sets of results shows that the average score for the nation was lower in the results that included the performance of students that needed and were provided with testing accommodations.

  • A comparison of the two sets of results for Hispanic students shows that their average score was lower in the results that included the performance of students that needed and were provided with testing accommodations.
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PDF Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. 719K

NCES 2001-499 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics. The Nation's Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000, NCES 2001-499, by P.L. Donahue, R.J. Finnegan, A.D. Lutkus, N.L. Allen, and J.R. Campbell. Washington, DC: 2001.

Last updated 3 April 2001 (PO'R)

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