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The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2002

June 2003

Authors: Wendy S. Grigg, Mary C. Daane, Ying Jin, and Jay R. Campbell


Executive Summary

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is an ongoing nationally representative sample survey of student achievement in core subject areas. Authorized by Congress and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, NAEP regularly reports to the public on the educational progress of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students.

This report presents the results of the NAEP 2002 reading assessment for the nation at grades 4, 8, and 12 and for participating states and other jurisdictions at grades 4 and 8. Assessment results are described in terms of students? average reading score on a 0?500 scale and in terms of the percentage of students attaining each of 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. The achievement levels are a collective judgment of what students should know and be able to do for each grade tested. As provided by law, NCES, upon review of a congressionally mandated evaluation of NAEP, determined that the achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution. However, both NCES 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 and others as a common yardstick of academic performance.

The results presented in this report are based on representative samples of students for the nation and for participating states and other jurisdictions. Approximately 270,000 students from 11,000 schools were assessed. The national results reflect the performance of students attending both public and nonpublic schools, while the state and jurisdiction results reflect only the performance of students attending public schools.

In addition to providing average scores and achievement level performance in reading for the nation and states and other jurisdictions, this report provides results for subgroups of students defined by various background characteristics. A summary of major findings from the NAEP 2002 assessment is presented on the following pages. Comparisons are made to results from previous years in which the assessment was administered. In addition to the 2002 results, national results are reported from the 1992, 1994, 1998, and 2000 (fourth-grade only) assessments. State and/or jurisdiction results are also reported from the 1992, 1994, and 1998 assessments at grade 4 and from the 1998 assessment at grade 8. The more recent results (those from 1998 or later) are based on administration procedures in which testing accommodations were permitted for students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. Accommodations were not permitted in earlier assessments. Comparisons between results from 2002 and those from assessment years in which both types of administration procedures were used (1998 at all three grades and 2000 at grade 4 only) are discussed in this executive summary based on the results when accommodations were permitted. Changes in student performance across years or differences between groups of students in 2002 are discussed only if they have been determined to be statistically significant.


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Overall Reading Results for the Nation and the States

Reading Results for the Nation

At grade 4

  • The fourth-grade average score in 2002 was higher than in 1994, 1998 and 2000, but was not found to be significantly different from 1992.
  • Scores at the 10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles were higher in 2002 than in 1998 and 2000 but were not found to be significantly different from 1992. The score at the 75th percentile was higher than in 1992, indicating improvement for higher performing fourth-grade students.
  • The percentage of fourth-graders who performed at or above the Basic level in 2002 was higher than in 1994, 1998, and 2000 but was not found to be significantly different from 1992. The percentage at or above Proficient was higher in 2002 than in 1992 and 1998.

At grade 8

  • The eighth-grade average score in 2002 was higher than in 1992 and 1994.
  • Scores were higher in 2002 than in 1992 for all but the highest performing eighth-grade students (at the 10th, 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles).
  • The percentage of eighth-graders who performed at or above Basic was higher in 2002 than in all previous assessment years, and the percentage at or above Proficient was higher than in 1992 and 1994.

At grade 12

  • The twelfth-grade average score in 2002 was lower than in 1992 and 1998.
  • At grade 12, declines in performance since 1992 were evident across most of the score distribution (10th, 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles).
  • The percentages of twelfth-graders who performed at or above the Basic and Proficient levels decreased between 1998 and 2002, and thus fell below levels seen in 1992.

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Reading Results for the States and Other Jurisdictions

Results from the 2002 assessment are reported for 48 states and other jurisdictions at grade 4, and 47 states and other jurisdictions at grade 8. An additional two states at grade 4 and three states at grade 8 participated in the 2002 assessment, but did not meet minimum participation guidelines for reporting results. Results for public-school students only are reported at the state or jurisdiction level. (Throughout this summary, the term jurisdiction is used to refer to the states, territories, and Department of Defense schools that participated in the NAEP reading assessments).

At grade 4

  • Among the 40 jurisdictions that participated in both the 1992 and 2002 assessments, fourth-graders? average scores increased in 15 jurisdictions and decreased in 2 jurisdictions. The percentage of students at or above Proficient increased in 17 of the jurisdictions during the same time period.
  • Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont were among the highest-performing states at grade 4 in 2002. The average scores for fourth-graders in Connecticut and Vermont were not found to be significantly different from each other, and fourth-graders in both states were outperformed on average by only those in Massachusetts.

At grade 8

  • Among the 37 jurisdictions that participated in both the 1998 and 2002 assessments, eighth-graders? average scores increased in 10 jurisdictions and decreased in 5 jurisdictions. The percentage of students at or above Proficient increased in 5 jurisdictions and declined in 1 jurisdiction during the same time period.
  • The Department of Defense domestic and overseas schools, Vermont, and Massachusetts were among the highest-performing jurisdictions at grade 8 in 2002. The average scores for eighth-graders in these jurisdictions were not found to differ significantly from each other.

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National and State Reading Results for Student Subgroups

In addition to overall results for the nation and for the states and jurisdictions, NAEP reports on the performance of various subgroups of students. In interpreting these data, readers are reminded that the relationship between contextual variables and student performance is not necessarily causal. There are many factors that may play a role in student achievement in a particular subject area.

National Results

Gender

  • The average scores of male and of female fourth-graders were higher in 2002 than in 1998 but were not found to be significantly different from the scores in 1992. Average scores of male and female eighth-graders were higher in 2002 than in 1992 and 1994. In contrast, the average scores of male and female twelfth-graders were lower in 2002 than in 1992 and 1998.
  • In 2002, females had higher average reading scores than males at all three grades.
  • The gap between average scores for male and female fourth-graders in 2002 was not found to be significantly different from that in 1992. At grade 8, the gap was smaller in 2002 than in all previous assessment years. The gap at grade 12, however, was wider in 2002 than it had been in 1992.
  • The percentages of female fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders at or above Proficient in 2002 were not found to differ significantly from those in 1992. The percentage of male eighth-graders at or above Proficient was higher in 2002 than in 1992, and the percentage of twelfth-grade males was lower in 2002 than in 1992.

Race/Ethnicity

  • At grades 4 and 8, both White and Black students had higher average scores in 2002 than in 1992. Similar increases across the decade were seen for eighth-grade Hispanic students and fourth-grade Asian/Pacific Islander students. The average scores for White and Black twelfth-graders, however, declined during the same time period.
  • In 2002, White students and Asian/Pacific Islander students had higher average scores than Black and Hispanic students, and White students outperformed Asian/Pacific Islander students at all three grades. American Indian/Alaska Native students had higher average scores than Black and Hispanic students at grade 4.
  • In 2002, the score gap between White and Black fourth-graders was smaller than in 1994 and the gap between White and Hispanic fourth-graders was smaller than in 2000, but neither gap was found to be significantly different from 1992. No changes were detected in the gaps between White and Black students and between White and Hispanic students at grades 8 and 12 since 1992.
  • Percentages of students at or above Proficient were higher in 2002 than in 1992 for White, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islander fourth-graders and for White and Black eighth-graders. The percentage of White twelfth-graders at or above Proficient was lower in 2002 than in 1992.

Eligibility for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch

The program providing free/reduced-price lunch is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for children near or below the poverty line. Eligibility is determined by the USDA?s Income Eligibility Guidelines (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/IEGs&NAPs/IEGs.htm). Reading results by this variable are only available back to 1998.

  • Average scores increased between 1998 and 2002 for fourth- and eighth-graders eligible for free/reduced-price lunch. No change was detected between 1998 and 2002 in the average score for twelfth-graders who were eligible, while the score for students who were not eligible decreased.
  • In 2002, at all three grades students who were eligible for free/reduced-price lunch had lower average scores than students who were not eligible.

Title I Participation

Title I is a federally funded program that provides educational services to children who live in areas with high concentrations of low-income families. Because of recent changes in how the program is administered, comparisons to previous assessment-year results are not available.

  • As was observed in previous assessments,1 students at all three grades who attended schools that received Title I funding had lower average reading scores in 2002 than students who attended schools that reported not receiving funds.

Parents? Level of Education

Eighth- and twelfth-grade students who participated in the NAEP reading assessment were asked to indicate the highest level of education completed by each parent. Information about parental education was not collected at grade 4.

  • At grade 8, average scores increased between 1992 and 2002 for students whose parents did not graduate from high school, as well as for students whose parents? highest level of education was either high school or college graduation. At grade 12, average scores in 2002 were lower than in 1992 regardless of parental education level.
  • As seen in previous assessments,2 a positive relationship between student-reported parental education and student reading performance was observed in 2002 at grades 8 and 12: the higher the parental education level, the higher the student?s average reading score.

Type of School

  • The average score for fourth-grade public-school students was higher in 2002 than in 1994, 1998, and 2000 but was not found to differ significantly from 1992. Eighth-graders attending public schools or Catholic schools had higher average scores in 2002 than in 1992. Twelfth-graders attending public schools had lower scores in 2002 than in 1992 and 1998.
  • In 2002, at all three grades students who attended nonpublic schools had higher average reading scores than their peers who attended public schools.

Type of Location

  • Fourth-graders attending schools in central city or urban fringe/large town locations had higher average scores in 2002 than in 2000. (Results by type of location are not available prior to 2000 at grade 4, or prior to 2002 at grades 8 and 12.)
  • In 2002, at all three grades students in schools located in urban fringe/large town areas outperformed students in schools located in central city and rural areas.

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State and Jurisdiction Results

Gender

Among those jurisdictions that participated in both the 1998 and 2002 assessments,

  • both male and female fourth-graders? average scores increased in 13 jurisdictions: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, District of Columbia, and Department of Defense domestic schools;
  • both male and female eighth-graders? average scores increased in two jurisdictions: Delaware and Florida.

Race/Ethnicity

Among those jurisdictions that participated in both the 1998 and 2002 assessments,

  • average scores increased for at least three different racial/ethnic subgroups of fourth-graders in five jurisdictions: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Virginia.
  • both White and Black eighth-graders? average scores increased in three jurisdictions: Delaware, Florida, and Missouri.

Eligibility for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch

Among those jurisdictions that participated in both the 1998 and 2002 assessments,

  • average scores increased for both fourth-graders who were eligible and those who were not eligible for free/reduced-price lunch in 14 jurisdictions: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
  • average scores increased for both eighth-graders who were eligible and those who were not eligible for free/reduced-price lunch in five jurisdictions: Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, Washington, and Department of Defense overseas schools.
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1 Donahue, P.L., Voelkl, K.E., Campbell, J.R. and Mazzeo, J. (1999). The 1998 NAEP Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States (NCES 1999-500). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics.
2 Ibid.



Download sections of the report (or the complete report ) in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

NCES 2003-521 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences. National Center for Education Statistics. The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2002, NCES 2003-521, by W. S. Grigg, M. C. Daane, Y. Jin, and J R. Campbell. Washington, DC: 2003.

Last updated 7 July 2003 (RH)


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