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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2007-039
September 2007

Indicator 10: Reading and Mathematics Achievement

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a nationally representative assessment of what U.S. students know and can do in various subject areas. This indicator focuses on the 2005 results of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students in the subjects of reading and mathematics.

NAEP results are reported as average scores as well as the percentage of students performing at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. These achievement levels are performance standards showing what students should know and be able to do. Basic denotes partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at a given grade. (Below Basic, therefore, denotes less than this level of achievement.) Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced signifies superior performance.20

The NAEP reading assessment gauges student performance in reading for literary experience and for information in grades 4, 8, and 12, and for reading to perform a task in grades 8 and 12. In 2005, at the 4th-grade level, a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander (42 percent) and White students (41 percent) scored at or above Proficient on the reading assessment than did their American Indian/Alaska Native (18 percent), Hispanic (16 percent), and Black (13 percent) peers. Likewise, American Indian/Alaska Native students outperformed their Black and Hispanic counterparts. A similar pattern emerged for 8th-grade students. At the 8th-grade level, a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander (40 percent) and White students (39 percent) performed at or above Proficient on the reading assessment than did their American Indian/Alaska Native (17 percent), Hispanic (15 percent), and Black (12 percent) peers. Likewise, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic students outperformed their Black counterparts. No differences were detected between American Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanics at this level. At the 12th-grade level, White (43 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander students (36 percent) were again more likely to score at or above Proficient than were their Hispanic (20 percent) and Black (16 percent) peers. The percentage of White 12th-graders at this achievement level was also higher than the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander 12th-graders. The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 12th-graders at this achievement level was not measurably different from the percentages of other racial/ethnic groups, which may be due in part to a large standard error.

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The NAEP mathematics assessment measures students' abilities in five content areas: number sense, properties, and operations; measurement; geometry and spatial sense; data analysis, statistics, and probability; and algebra and functions. In 2005, at the 4th-grade level, a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students (55 percent) scored at or above Proficient on the mathematics assessment than did their White (47 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (21 percent), Hispanic (19 percent), and Black (13 percent) peers. A similar pattern emerged for 8th-grade students: a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students (47 percent) performed at or above Proficient than did their White (39 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (14 percent), Hispanic (13 percent), and Black peers (9 percent). At the 12th-grade level, Asian/Pacific Islander students (36 percent) were again more likely to score at this achievement level than were White (29 percent), Hispanic (8 percent), Black (6 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (6 percent).

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20 Achievement levels are determined by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), based on recommendations from panels of educators and members of the public, to provide a context for interpreting student performance on NAEP. Detailed descriptions of the NAEP achievement levels for each subject and grade can be found on the NAGB website (http://www.nagb.org/pubs/pubs.html).

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