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The Nation's Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008

April 2009

Authors: Bobby D. Rampey, Gloria S. Dion, and Patricia L. Donahue

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


Cover image of the 2009 Trends in Academic Progress report card

Executive Summary

Improvements seen in reading and mathematics

Black students make greater gains from early 1970s than White students

Most racial/ethnic score gaps narrow compared to first assessment

For students whose parents did not finish high school, mathematics scores increase compared to 1978

Percentages of students taking higher-level mathematics increasing

This report presents the results of the NAEP long-term trend assessments in reading and mathematics, which were most recently given in the 2007–08 school year to students at ages 9, 13, and 17. Nationally representative samples of over 26,000 public and private school students were assessed in each subject area.

The long-term trend assessments make it possible to chart educational progress since the early 1970s. Results in reading are available for 12 assessments going back to the first in 1971. The first of 11 assessments in mathematics was administered in 1973. Throughout this report, the most recent results are compared to those from 2004 and from the first year the assessment was conducted.

The original assessment format, content, and procedures were revised somewhat in 2004 to update content and provide accommodations to students with disabilities and English language learners. The knowledge and skills assessed, however, remain essentially the same since the first assessment year.

Improvements seen in reading and mathematics

Reading

In reading, average scores increased at all three ages since 2004. Average scores were 12 points higher than in 1971 for 9-year-olds and 4 points1 higher for 13-year-olds. The average reading score for 17-year-olds was not significantly different from that in 1971.

1The score-point change is based on the difference between unrounded scores as opposed to the rounded scores shown in the figure.

Trend in NAEP reading average scores for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students

Image of a graphic from the report card showing NAEP reading scores for 9, 13, and 17-year-old students. Scores for 9-year-olds were 208 in 1971, 210 in 1975, 215 in 1980, 211 in 1984, 212 in 1988, 209 in 1990, 211 in 1992, 211 in 1994, 212 in 1996, 212 in 1999, 219 in 2004 in the original assessement; 216 in 2004 and 220 in 2008 in the revised assessment. Scores for 13-year-olds were 255 in 1971, 256 in 1975, 258 in 1980, 257 in 1984, 257 in 1988, 257 in 1990, 260 in 1992, 258 in 1994, 258 in 1996, 259 in 1999, 259 in 2004 in the original assessement; 257 in 2004 and 260 in 2008 in the revised assessment. Scores for 17-year-olds were 285 in 1971, 286 in 1975, 285 in 1980, 289 in 1984, 290 in 1988, 290 in 1990, 290 in 1992, 288 in 1994, 288 in 1996, 288 in 1999, 285 in 2004 in the original assessement; 283 in 2004 and 286 in 2008 in the revised assessment.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1971–2008 Long-Term Trend Reading Assessments.

Mathematics

In mathematics, average scores for 9- and 13-year-olds increased since 2004, while the average score for 17-year-olds did not change significantly. Average scores were 24 points higher than in 1973 for 9-year-olds and 15 points higher for 13-year-olds. The average mathematics score for 17-year-olds was not significantly different from that in 1973.

Trend in NAEP mathematics average scores for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students

Image of a graphic from the report card showing NAEP mathematic scores for 9, 13, and 17-year-old students. Scores for 9-year-olds were 219 in 1973, 219 in 1978, 219 in 1982, 222 in 1986, 230 in 1990, 230 in 1992, 231 in 1994, 231 in 1996, 232 in 1999, and 241 in 2004 in the original assessement; 239 in 2004 and 243 in 2008 in the revised assessment. Scores for 13-year-olds were 266 in 1973, 264 in 1978, 269 in 1982, 269 in 1986, 270 in 1990, 273 in 1992, 274 in 1994, 274 in 1996, 276 in 1999, and 281 in 2004 in the original assessement; 279 in 2004 and 281 in 2008 in the revised assessment. Scores for 17-year-olds were 304 in 1973, 300 in 1978, 298 in 1982, 302 in 1986, 305 in 1990, 307 in 1992, 306 in 1994, 307 in 1996, 308 in 1999, and 307 in 2004 in the original assessement; 305 in 2004 and 306 in 2008 in the revised assessment.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1973–2008 Long-Term Trend Mathematics Assessments.

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Black students make greater gains from early 1970s than White students

Average reading scores were higher in 2008 than in the first assessment year for White, Black, and Hispanic students. Across the three age groups, increases from 1971 to 2008 were larger for Black students than for White students. Increases from 1975 to 2008 were greater for Hispanic than for White students at ages 9 and 17, but were not significantly different at age 13.

In comparison to 2004, average reading scores were higher in 2008 for White students at all three ages, for Black students at ages 9 and 13, and for Hispanic students at age 9.

Across all three age groups, increases in average mathematics scores from 1973 to 2008 were greater for both Black and Hispanic students than for White students.

In comparison to 2004, average mathematics scores were higher in 2008 for White students at age 9. There were no significant changes in scores for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old Black and Hispanic students or for 13- and 17-year-old White students over the same period.

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Most racial/ethnic score gaps narrow compared to first assessment

While the reading score gaps between White and Black students at all three ages showed no significant change from 2004 to 2008, the gaps did narrow in 2008 compared to 1971. White  –  Hispanic gaps in reading scores also showed no significant change from 2004 to 2008 but were smaller in 2008 than in 1975 at ages 9 and 17.

Across all three age groups, neither the White  –  Black nor White  –  Hispanic gaps in mathematics changed significantly from 2004 to 2008, but both were smaller in 2008 than in 1973.

Reading

Age group Changes since 1971
White
Black
Hispanic2
Age 9
score was higher by  14 points
score was higher by  34 points
score was higher by  25 points
Age 13
score was higher by  7 points
score was higher by  25 points
score was higher by  10 points
Age 17
score was higher by  4 points
score was higher by  28 points
score was higher by  17 points


 

 



 


 

Age group Changes since 2004
White
Black
Hispanic
Age 9
score was higher by  4 points
score was higher by  7 points
score was higher by  8 points
Age 13
score was higher by  4 points
score was higher by  8 points
no significant change in the score
Age 17
score was higher by  7 points
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score



 

 

 



 

Mathematics 

Age group Changes since 1973
White
Black
Hispanic
Age 9
score was higher by  25 points
score was higher by  34 points
score was higher by  32 points
Age 13
score was higher by  16 points
score was higher by  34 points
score was higher by  29 points
Age 17
score was higher by  4 points
score was higher by  17 points
score was higher by  16 points


 

 



 


 

Age group Changes since 2004
White
Black
Hispanic
Age 9
score was higher by  5 points
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score
Age 13
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score
Age 17
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score
no significant change in the score




 

 


 

Image of an up arrow Indicates the score was higher in 2008.
Image of a double-headed sideways arrow 
Indicates there was no significant change in the score in 2008.

 

 

 

2 Results for Hispanic students were first available in 1975. Therefore, the results shown in the 1971 section for Hispanic students are from the 1975 assessment.

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For students whose parents did not finish high school, mathematics scores increase compared to 1978

The average mathematics scores for 13- and 17-year-olds whose parents did not finish high school were higher than they were 30 years ago. At age 13, the score in 2008 for students whose parents did not finish high school was not significantly different from the score in 2004 but was 23 points higher than in 1978. At age 17, the average mathematics score for students whose parents did not finish high school was 5 points higher in 2008 than in 2004 and 12 points higher than in 1978.

Scores for 13-year-olds whose parents had higher levels of education were also higher in 2008 than in 1978 but not significantly different compared to 2004. There were no significant changes in the scores for 17-year-olds whose parents had higher levels of education in comparison to 2004 or 1978.

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Percentages of students taking higher-level mathematics increasing

Taking higher-level mathematics courses was generally associated with higher scores on the 2008 mathematics assessment at ages 13 and 17. For example, 13-year-olds who were enrolled in algebra classes scored higher on average than those enrolled in pre-algebra or regular mathematics. The percentages of 13-year-olds who reported taking pre-algebra or algebra in 2008 were higher than the percentages in 1986. The percentage of 17-year-olds who reported they had taken pre-calculus or calculus was higher in 2008 than in 1978, as was the percentage who had taken second-year algebra or trigonometry.

Percentage of 13-year-old students in NAEP mathematics, by type of mathematics course they have taken during the school year: 1986 and 2008

Image of a graphic from the report card showing percentages for 13-year-old students in NAEP mathematics by type of mathematics courses they have taken during the school year. Percentages in 1986 were 8% for Other category, 18% for Alegebra, 19% for Pre-algebra, 61% for Regular mathematics, and #, which indicates rounding to zero, for Not taking mathematics. Percentages in 2008 were 7% for Other category, 30% for Algebra, 32 for Pre-algebra, 31% for Regular mathematics, and 1% for Not taking mathematics.

# Rounds to zero.
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
NOTE: Results for 1986 are from the original assessment format, and results for 2008 are from the revised assessment format. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1986 and 2008 Long-Term Trend Mathematics Assessments.

Percentage of 17-year-old students in NAEP mathematics, by highest-level mathematics course they have ever taken: 1978 and 2008

Image of a graphic from the report card showing percentages for 17-year-old students in NAEP mathematics by highest-level mathematics courses they have ever taken. Percentages in 1978 were 4% for Other category, 6% for Pre-calculus or calculus, 37% for Second-year algebra or trigonometry, 16% for Geometry, 17% for First-year algebra, 20% for Pre-algebra or general mathematics. Percentages in 2008 were 1% for Other category, 19% for Pre-calculus or calculus, 52% for Second-year algebra or trigonometry, 17% for Geometry, 7% for First-year algebra, 3% for Pre-algebra or general mathematics.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
NOTE: The “pre-algebra or general mathematics” response category includes “pre-algebra or introduction to algebra” and “general, business, or consumer mathematics” and students who did not take any of the listed courses. The “other” response category includes students for whom the highest-level mathematics course could not be determined due to missing or inconsistent responses. Results for 1978 are from the original assessment format, and results for 2008 are from the revised assessment format. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1978 and 2008 Long-Term Trend Mathematics Assessments.

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

NCES 2009-479  Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Rampey, B.D., Dion, G.S., and Donahue, P.L. (2009). NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress (NCES 2009–479). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see the results of the 2008 Long-Term Trend assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 29 April 2009 (FW)

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