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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Indicator 11. 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 results of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students in the subjects of reading and mathematics.

NAEP results are reported as average scores and 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.17

11.1. Reading Achievement

In grades 4, 8, and 12 the NAEP reading assessment gauges student performance in reading for literary experience and reading for information. In grades 8 and 12 it also gauges performance in reading to perform a task. In 2007, about 33 percent of 4th-graders scored at or above the Proficient level. Higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander (46 percent) and White (43 percent) students scored at or above this level than did their Black (14 percent), Hispanic (17 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (18 percent) peers. Over one-half of Black (54 percent) 4th-graders and about one-half of Hispanic (50 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native (51 percent) 4th-graders scored below the Basic achievement level in 2007.

At the 8th-grade level, 31 percent of all students scored at or above the Proficient level. Higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander (41 percent) and White (40 percent) students scored at or above this level than did their Black (13 percent), Hispanic (15 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (18 percent) peers. In 2005, approximately 35 percent of 12th-grade students scored at or above the Proficient level. The percentages of White (43 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander (36 percent) students who scored at or above Proficient were higher than the percentages of Black (16 percent) and Hispanic (20 percent) students who did so. The percentage of White 12th-graders at the Proficient level was also higher than the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander 12th-graders at that level. The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 12th-graders at the Proficient level was not measurably different from the respective percentages of other racial/ethnic groups, which may be due in part to a large standard error.

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11.2. Mathematics Achievement

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 2009, about 39 percent of 4th- graders scored at or above the Proficient level. Asians/Pacific Islanders (60 percent) had the highest percentage of 4th-graders scoring at or above Proficient, followed by White students (51 percent). Both of these groups had higher percentages of students scoring at this level than did Hispanics (22 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Natives (21 percent) students. Blacks had the lowest percentage of 4th-grade students scoring at or above the Proficient level (16 percent) of all groups.

 The percentage of 8th-graders scoring at or above Proficient followed a similar pattern: in 2009, approximately 54 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students scored at or above Proficient, higher than the percentages for White (44 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (18 percent), Hispanic (17 percent), and Black (12 percent) 8th-graders. In 2005, at the 12th-grade level, a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students (36 percent) scored at or above Proficient than did White (29 percent), Hispanic (8 percent), Black (6 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (6 percent) students.

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17 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/publications/achievement.htm).


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