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Reading Performance
(Last Updated: May 2014)

The average grade 8 reading score was higher in 2013 than in 2011 according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The average grade 4 reading score in 2013 was not measurably different from that in 2011.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12. NAEP reading scores range from 0 to 500. NAEP achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, and Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. This indicator presents data on NAEP reading scale scores and achievement levels for various student subgroups as well as highlights achievement gaps between English Language Learner (ELL) and non-ELL students. NAEP reading assessments are administered periodically: the most recent reading assessment data were collected at grades 4 and 8 in 2013 and at grade 12 in 2009.


Figure 1. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students: Selected years, 1992–2013

Figure 1. Average reading scale scores of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students: Selected years, 1992–2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. The 8th-grade NAEP reading assessment was not administered in 2000.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1992–2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.10.


In 2013, the average reading score for 4th-grade students (222) was not measurably different from the 2011 score, but it was higher than the scores on assessments between 1992 (217) and 2009 (221). For 8th-grade students, the average reading score in 2013 (268) was more than 2 points higher than in 2011 (265), was 8 points higher than in 1992 (260), and was higher than the average scores in all previous years. In 2009, the average reading score for 12th-grade students (288) was more than 2 points higher than in 2005 (286) but 4 points lower than in 1992 (292).


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-grade students across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading achievement levels: Selected years, 1992–2013

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-grade students across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading achievement levels: Selected years, 1992–2013

NOTE: Achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, and Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Survey not conducted for grade 8 in 2000.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1992–2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See The Condition of Education 2012, table A-23-1; and Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.20.


In 2013, the percentage of 4th-grade students performing at or above the Basic achievement level (68 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2011 but was higher than the percentage in 1992 (62 percent). A higher percentage of 4th-grade students performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in 2013 (35 percent) than in 2011 (34 percent) and 1992 (29 percent). Among 8th-grade students, the percentage performing at or above Basic in 2013 (78 percent) was higher than in 2011 (76 percent) and 1992 (69 percent). A higher percentage of 8th-grade students performed at or above Proficient in 2013 (36 percent) than in 2011 (34 percent) and 1992 (29 percent). Among 12th-grade students, the percentage performing at or above Basic (74 percent) in 2009 was not significantly different from the percentage in 2005 but was lower than the percentage in 1992 (80 percent). The percentage of 12th-graders performing at or above Proficient was higher in 2009 (38 percent) than in 2005 (35 percent) but was not significantly different from the percentage in 1992.


Figure 3. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: 1992, 2011, and 2013

Figure 3. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: 1992, 2011, and 2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992, 2011, and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.10.


At grade 4, only the average reading scores for White students were higher in 2013 (232) than in both 2011 (231) and 1992 (224). The 2013 scores for Black (206), Hispanic (207), and Asian/Pacific Islander (235) 4th-graders were not measurably different from the 2011 scores, but the 2013 scores were higher than the 1992 scores (192, 197, and 216, respectively). At grade 8, the average reading scores for White (276), Black (250), Hispanic (256), and Asian/Pacific Islander (280) students were higher in 2013 than in 2011 and 1992. At grade 12, average scores did not change measurably from 1992 to 2009 for White, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native students.


Figure 4. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by English language learner (ELL) status: Selected years, 1998–2013

Figure 4. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by English language learners (ELL) status: Selected years, 1998–2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. The 8th-grade NAEP reading assessment was not administered in 2000.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1998–2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.10.


Since 1998, NAEP has collected data regarding student English language learner (ELL) status. In 2013 and in all previous assessment years since 1998, the NAEP reading scale scores for non-ELL 4th- and 8th-graders were higher than their ELL peers' scores. This disparity is known as an achievement gap—in NAEP reading scores, the achievement gap is the difference between the average scores of two student subgroups on the standardized assessment. In 2013, the achievement gap between non-ELL and ELL students was 38 points at the 4th-grade level and 45 points at the 8th-grade level. At both grade levels, the 2013 reading achievement gap was not measurably different from the gap in either 2011 or 1998.


Figure 5. Change in average reading scale scores for 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: Between 2011 and 2013

Figure 5. Change in average reading scale scores for 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: Between  2011 and 2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2011 and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, tables 221.40 and 221.60.


NAEP results also permit state-level comparisons of the reading abilities of 4th- and 8th-grade students in public schools. While there was no measurable change from 2011 to 2013 in the average score for 4th-grade public school students nationally, average scores were higher in 2013 than in 2011 in Colorado, the Department of Defense dependents schools, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington, and the District of Columbia; scores were lower in 2013 than in 2011 in Massachusetts, Montana, and North Dakota. At grade 8, although the average reading score for public school students nationally was 2 points higher in 2013 than in 2011, only 12 states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington) plus the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense dependents schools had higher scores in 2013 than in 2011. In the other states, scores did not change measurably from 2011 to 2013.

NAEP also collects data for some urban districts. The Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) is intended to focus attention on urban education and measures the educational progress of participating large urban districts. The results of the 21 urban districts are based on the same mathematics and reading assessments used to report national and state results. This allows each district to compare its performance to the performance of its home state as well as to that of other states and other participating districts.


Figure 6. Comparison of average reading scale scores for 4th- and 8th-grade students, by jurisdiction: 2013

Figure 6. Comparison of average reading scale scores for 4th- and 8th-grade students, by jurisdiction: 2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.80.


In 2013, seven urban districts (Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County-FL, Jefferson County-KY, Miami-Dade, New York City, and San Diego) had scores higher than the large city1 average grade 4 reading score of 212, while 12 urban districts had scores lower than the large city average and 2 had scores that were not measurably different (Atlanta and Boston). At the 8th-grade level, 4 urban districts (Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County-FL, and Jefferson County-KY) had scores higher than the large city average reading score of 258, while 12 urban districts had scores lower than the large city average and 5 urban districts had scores that were not measurably different.

Two of the urban districts (the District of Columbia and Los Angeles) had higher average 4th-grade reading scores in 2013 than they did in 2011, and the Houston urban district's score decreased between 2011 and 2013. There were no other measurable score changes at the 4th-grade level for other urban districts during this period. In 8th-grade reading, five urban districts (Baltimore, Dallas, Fresno, Los Angeles, and the District of Columbia) had higher average reading scores in 2013 than in 2011. No other urban district showed a measurable change in average 8th-grade reading scores between 2011 and 2013.

1 A large city is a territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with a population of 250,000 or more. NAEP uses large city as a comparison group for the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). In order to make comparisons between the urban districts that participate and large cities, the NAEP large city jurisdiction also includes those portions of the participating urban districts which fall outside of the city limits. Large city is not synonymous with the term inner city.


Glossary terms: Achievement levels
Data Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)


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