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The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009

March 2010

Author: National Center for Education Statistics

PDF Download The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 PDF for viewing and printing (6758K PDF)


Cover image of The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 report

Executive Summary

Reading scores up since 2007 at grade 8 and unchanged at grade 4

Gains for some student groups but gaps persist

Scores increase in three states/jurisdictions at grade 4 and nine states at grade 8

Examples of Student Reading Skills

Reading scores up since 2007 at grade 8 and unchanged at grade 4

Nationally representative samples of more than 178,000 fourth-graders and 160,000 eighth-graders participated in the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading. At each grade, students responded to questions designed to measure their knowledge of reading comprehension across two types of texts: literary and informational.

At grade 4, the average reading score in 2009 was unchanged from the score in 2007 but was higher than the scores in other earlier assessment years from 1992 to 2005. About two-thirds (67 percent) of fourth-graders performed at or above the Basic level in 2009, and one-third (33 percent) performed at or above Proficient. Both percentages were unchanged from 2007 but were higher than previous assessment years. Eight percent of fourth-graders performed at the Advanced level, which was the same as in 2007 but higher than in 1992.

At grade 8, the average reading score in 2009 was one point higher than in 2007 and four points higher than in 1992 but was not consistently higher than in all the assessment years in between. Gains since 2007 were seen for lower- and middle-performing students at the 10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles, while scores for higher-performing students at the 75th and 90th percentiles showed no significant change. In 2009, about three-quarters (75 percent) of eighth-graders performed at or above the Basic level, and one-third (32 percent) performed at or above Proficient. Both percentages were higher in 2009 than in 2007 and 1992. Three percent of eighth-graders performed at the Advanced level in 2009, which was the same as the percentages in 2007 and 1992.

Trend in fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP reading average scores

Image of grahpic showing the average reading scores for 1992, 1994, 1998 without accommodations, and 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 with accommodations, respectively: for grade 4 scores were 217*, 214*, 217*, 215*, 213*, 219*, 218*, 219*, 221, and 221; for grade 8 scores were 260*, 260*, 264, 263, 264, 263, 262*, 263*, 264."

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2009.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1992–2009 Reading Assessments.

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Gains for some student groups but gaps persist

Trends in scores for student groups were generally similar to those for students overall. At grade 4, there were no significant changes in the average reading scores from 2007 to 2009 for student groups by race/ethnicity, gender, or type of school. Scores for most of the student groups were, however, higher in 2009 than in 1992.

At grade 8, average scores were higher in 2009 than in both 2007 and 1992 for most racial/ethnic groups, male students, and public school students. There were no significant changes compared to either 2007 or 1992 for female students or private school students, and no significant change for Asian/Pacific Islander students compared to 1992.

Even with gains for most student groups from 1992 to 2009 at both grades, and since 2007 at grade 8, score gaps have changed little. Compared to 2007, there have been no significant changes in the racial/ethnic gaps, gender gaps, or gaps by type of school at either grade. Compared to 1992, only the White – Black gap at grade 4 and the female – male gap at grade 8 have narrowed.

 Student groups Grade 4 Grade 8
Since
1992
Since
2007
Since
1992
Since
2007
Overall
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
White
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
Black
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
Hispanic
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
Asian/Pacific
Islander
Up
No significant difference
No significant difference
Up
American Indian/
Alaska Native
Reporting standards not met.
No significant difference
Reporting standards not met.
Up

 Gender Grade 4 Grade 8
Since
1992
Since
2007
Since
1992
Since
2007
Male
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
Female
Up
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference

 Type of school Grade 4 Grade 8
Since
1992
Since
2007
Since
1992
Since
2007
Public
Up
No significant difference
Up
Up
Private
Up
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference

 Gaps Grade 4 Grade 8
Since
1992
Since
2007
Since
1992
Since
2007
White – Black
Narrowed
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
White – Hispanic
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
Female – Male
No significant difference
No significant difference
Narrowed
No significant difference
Private – Public
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference

Up  Indicates the score was higher in 2009.
No significant difference  Indicates no significant change in the score or the gap in 2009.
Reporting standards not met.  Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.

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Scores increase in three states/jurisdictions at grade 4 and nine states at grade 8

Map of the 2009 NAEP Mathematic results compared 2007, average mathematics scores for public school students in 2009; 4 states (Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and the District of Columbia increased at both grades, 3 states (Colorado, Kentucky, and Maryland) increased at grade 4 only, 4 states (Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia, and Wyoming) decreased at grade 4 only, 10 states (Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington) increased at grade 8 only, and 30 states and jurisdictions showed no significant change at either grade.

Compared to 2007, average reading scores for public school students in 2009

2009 scores increased in both grades.

increased at both grades in Kentucky;

2009 reading scores increased at grade 4 only.

increased at grade 4 only in the District of Columbia and Rhode Island;

2009 reading scores decreased at grade 4 only.

decreased at grade 4 only in Alaska, Iowa, and Wyoming;

2009 reading scores increased at grade 8 only.

increased at grade 8 only in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Utah;

2009 reading scores decreased at grade 4 but increased at grade 8.

decreased at grade 4 but increased at grade 8 in New Mexico; and

2009 reading scores showed no significant change at either grade.

showed no significant change at either grade in 38 states and jurisdictions.

1Department of Defense Education Activitiy (overseas and domestic schools).

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Examples of Student Reading Skills

Fourth-graders at the Proficient level were likely to be able to

  • recognize the author’s technique in  developing a character, or
  • use information from an article to provide and support an opinion.

Eighth-graders at the Proficient level
were likely to be able to

  • recognize an interpretation of the author’s point in a persuasive essay, or
  • interpret lines of a poem to explain the speaker’s perspective.

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Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

PDF The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 PDF (6758K PDF)

NCES 2010-458  Ordering information


Suggested Citation
National Center for Education Statistics (2009). The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009  (NCES 2010–458). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see the results of the 2009 Reading assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 26 March 2010 (RH)

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education