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The Nation's Report Card: 
Trends in Academic Progress 2012

June 2013

Author: National Center for Education Statistics

Download The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 PDF File (5.6 MB)


Cover image of The Nation's Report Card: Long-Term Trend 2012 report.Executive Summary

Nine- and 13-year-olds make gains

Racial/ethnic and gender gaps narrow

Since the 1970s, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has monitored the academic performance of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students with what have become known as the long-term trend assessments. Four decades of results offer an extended view of student achievement in reading and mathematics. Results in this report are based on the most recent performance of more than 50,000 public and private school students who, by their participation, have contributed to our understanding of the nation’s academic achievement.

Nine- and 13-year-olds make gains

Both 9- and 13-year-olds scored higher in reading and mathematics in 2012 than students their age in the early 1970s. Scores were 8 to 25 points higher in 2012 than in the first assessment year. Seventeen-year-olds, however, did not show similar gains. Average reading and mathematics scores in 2012 for 17-year-olds were not significantly different from scores in the first assessment year.

Since the last administration of the assessments in 2008, only 13-year-olds made gains—and they did so in both reading and mathematics.

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

Reading

Image of a line graph with three horizontal lines showing average scores for age 9, age 13, and age 17 students. The X axis is labeled year and shows various years from 1971 through 2012. The Y axis is labeled scale score and shows a range of scores from 0 to 500. Each horizontal line consists of two assessment variations: original assessment format and revised assessment format. There are two data points in the transition year between original and revised formats. For Reading age 9: The original format was used, In 1971 = 208, significantly different from 2012; In 1975 = 210, significantly different from 2012; In 1980 = 215, significantly different from 2012; In 1984 = 211, significantly different from 2012; In 1988 = 212, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 209, significantly different from 2012; In 1992 = 211, significantly different from 2012; In 1994 = 211, significantly different from 2012; In 1996 = 212, significantly different from 2012; In 1999 = 212, significantly different from 2012; In 2004 = 219; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 216, significantly different from 2012; In 2008 = 220; and In 2012 = 221. For Reading age 13: The original format was used, In 1971 = 255, significantly different from 2012; In 1975 = 256, significantly different from 2012; In 1980 = 258, significantly different from 2012; In 1984 = 257, significantly different from 2012; In 1988 = 257, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 257, significantly different from 2012; In 1992 = 260; In 1994 = 258, significantly different from 2012; In 1996 = 258, significantly different from 2012; In 1999 = 259, significantly different from 2012; In 2004 = 259, significantly different from 2012; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 257, significantly different from 2012; In 2008 = 260, significantly different from 2012; and In 2012 = 263. For Reading age 17: The original format was used, In 1971 = 285; In 1975 = 286; In 1980 = 285; In 1984 = 289; In 1988 = 290, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 290, significantly different from 2012; In 1992 = 290, significantly different from 2012; In 1994 = 288; In 1996 = 288; In 1999 = 288; In 2004 = 285; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 283, significantly different from 2012; In 2008 = 286; and In 2012 = 287.

Mathematics

Image of a line graph with three horizontal lines showing average scores for age 9, age 13, and age 17 students. The X axis is labeled year and shows various years from 1973 through 2012. The Y axis is labeled scale score and shows a range of scores from 0 to 500. Each horizontal line consists of three assessment variations: original assessment format, and revised assessment format, and extrapolated data. There are two data points in the transition year between original and revised formats. For Mathematics age 9: The scores were extrapolated In 1973 = 219, significantly different from 2012; The original format was used, In 1978 = 219, significantly different from 2012; In 1982 = 219, significantly different from 2012; In 1986 = 222, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 230, significantly different from 2012; In 1992 = 230, significantly different from 2012; In 1994 = 231, significantly different from 2012; In 1996 = 231, significantly different from 2012; In 1999 = 232, significantly different from 2012; In 2004 = 241; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 239, significantly different from 2012; In 2008 = 243; and In 2012 = 244. For Mathematics age 13: The scores were extrapolated In 1973 = 266, significantly different from 2012; The original format was used, In 1978 = 264, significantly different from 2012; In 1982 = 269, significantly different from 2012; In 1986 = 269, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 270, significantly different from 2012; In 1992 = 273, significantly different from 2012; In 1994 = 274, significantly different from 2012; In 1996 = 274, significantly different from 2012; In 1999 = 276, significantly different from 2012; In 2004 = 281, significantly different from 2012; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 279, significantly different from 2012; In 2008 = 281, significantly different from 2012; and In 2012 = 285. For Mathematics age 17: The scores were extrapolated In 1973 = 304; The original format was used, In 1978 = 300, significantly different from 2012; In 1982 = 298, significantly different from 2012; In 1986 = 302, significantly different from 2012; In 1990 = 305; In 1992 = 307; In 1994 = 306; In 1996 = 307; In 1999 = 308; In 2004 = 307; The revised format was used, In 2004 = 305; In 2008 = 306; and In 2012 = 306.
Image of a key identifying the extrapolated, the original, and the revised assessment trendlines.

See complete data for reading age 9age 13, and age 17.
See complete data for mathematics  age 9age 13, and age 17.
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2012.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1971–2012 Long-Term Trend Reading and Mathematics Assessments.

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Racial/ethnic and gender gaps narrow

Closing achievement gaps is a goal of both national and state education policy. The results from the 2012 NAEP long-term trend assessments show some progress toward meeting that goal. The narrowing of the White – Black and White – Hispanic score gaps in reading and mathematics from the 1970s is the result of larger gains by Black and Hispanic students than White students. Only the White – Hispanic gap in mathematics at age 9 has not shown a significant change from the early 1970s.

Female students scored higher in reading than male students at all three ages. The 2012 results show 9-year-old males making larger score gains than females. This has led to a narrowing of the gender gap at age 9 as compared to 1971.

In mathematics, male 17-year-old students scored higher than female students. The gender gap at age 17 narrowed because female students made gains from 1971 to 2012, but 17-year-old male students did not.

Reading
Characteristic Student group Score changes from 1971 Score changes from 2008
Age 9 Age 13 Age 17 Age 9 Age 13 Age 17
Overall All students Up 13 Up  8 No significant change. No significant change. Up  3 No significant change.
Race/ethnicity White Up 15 Up  9 Up  4 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Black Up 36 Up 24 Up 30 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Hispanic1 Up 25 Up 17 Up 21 No significant change. Up  7 No significant change.
Gender Male Up 17 Up  9 Up  4 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Female Up 10 Up  6 No significant change. No significant change. Up  3 No significant change.
Score gaps White – Black Narrowed Narrowed Narrowed No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
White – Hispanic Narrowed Narrowed Narrowed No significant change. Narrowed No significant change.
Female – Male Narrowed No significant change. No significant change. No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.

 

Mathematics
Characteristic Student group Score changes from 1973 Score changes from 2008
Age 9 Age 13 Age 17 Age 9 Age 13 Age 17
Overall All students Up 25 Up 19 No significant change. No significant change. Up  4 No significant change.
Race/ethnicity White Up 27 Up 19 Up  4 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Black Up 36 Up 36 Up 18 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Hispanic Up 32 Up 32 Up 17 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Gender Male Up 26 Up 21 No significant change. No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Female Up 24 Up 17 Up  3 No significant change. Up  5 No significant change.
Score gaps White – Black Narrowed Narrowed Narrowed No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
White – Hispanic No significant change. Narrowed Narrowed No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Female – Male2 No significant change. No significant change. Narrowed No significant change. No significant change. No significant change.
Up arrow Indicates score was higher in 2012
No significance arrow Indicates no significant change in 2012
1 Reading 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.
2 Score differences between male and female students in mathematics were not found to be statistically significant (p < .05) at age 9 in 1973, 2008, or 2012, and at age 13 in 1973 and 2012.
NOTE: Black includes African American, and Hispanic includes Latino. Race categories exclude Hispanic origin.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1971–2012 Long-Term Trend Reading and Mathematics Assessments.

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Download The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 PDF File (5.6 MB)

NCES 2013-456  Ordering information

Suggested Citation
National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation's Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012  (NCES 2013–456). 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 Long-Term Trend Reading and Mathematics assessments on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 19 June 2013 (RH)
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