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Chapter 2. School-Related Characteristics

Indicator 12. Reading and Mathematics Proficiency of 13- and 17-year-olds

The long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has provided information on the achievement of 13- and 17-year-olds in the United States every 2 to 5 years since 1971 for reading and 1973 for mathematics.5 The content of these assessments is designed to measure the same knowledge and skills to allow for comparisons over a long period of time.

Between 1980 and 2008, there was no significant change in the overall reading scores of 13-year-olds, nor was there a measurable difference between the overall reading scores in 2004 and 2008. In 2008, female 13-year-olds had higher reading scores than their male counterparts (264 vs. 256). Also, in 2008, Asian/Pacific Islander 13-year-olds had higher reading scores (278) than their White (268), American Indian/Alaska Native (250), Black (247), and Hispanic (242) counterparts. White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander 13-year-olds had higher average reading scores in 2008 than in 1980. In terms of parents' educational level, those 13-year-olds in 2008 whose parents had at least a college degree had higher reading scores (270) than those whose parents had attended, but not graduated from college (265); those whose parents had graduated from high school (251); and those whose parents had not graduated from high school (239).6

There was also no significant overall change in the reading scores of 17-year-olds between 1980 and 2008, nor was there a measurable difference between the overall reading scores in 2004 and 2008. Again, in 2008, female 17-year-olds had higher reading scores (291) than males (280).  In 2008, White and Asian/Pacific Islander 17-year-olds had higher reading scores (295 each) than their American Indian/Alaska Native (281), Hispanic (269), and Black (266) counterparts.  Among 17-year-olds, Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students had higher average reading scores in 2008 than in 1980. The 2008 reading scores of 17-year-olds whose parents had graduated from college (298) were higher than the scores of those whose parents had attended, but not graduated from college (288); those whose parents had graduated from high school (274); and those whose parents had not graduated from high school (266).

Between 1982 and 2008, the mathematics scores of 13-year-olds increased by 12 points, from 269 to 281, but there was no measurable difference between 2004 and 2008.  In 2008, male 13-year-olds had higher mathematics scores than their female counterparts (284 vs. 279). Also, in 2008, Asian/Pacific Islander 13-year-olds had higher mathematics scores (304) than their White (290), American Indian/Alaska Native (274), Hispanic (268), and Black (262) counterparts. These average mathematics scores represented an increase for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander 13-year-olds over their average scores in 1982. In terms of parents' educational level, those 13-year-olds in 2008 whose parents had graduated from college had higher mathematics scores (291) than those whose parents had attended, but not graduated from college (285); those whose parents had graduated from high school (272); and those whose parents had not graduated from high school (268).

The mathematics scores of 17-year-olds increased by 8 points between 1982 and 2008, from 298 to 306, but there was no measurable difference between 2004 and 2008.  Again, in 2008, male 17-year-olds had higher mathematics scores than did females (309 vs. 303).  In 2008, Asian/Pacific Islander 17-year-olds had higher mathematics scores (321) than their White (314), American Indian/Alaska Native (305), Hispanic (293), and Black (287) counterparts.  The average mathematics scores for 17-year-olds increased between 1982 and 2008 for Whites, Hispanics, and Asians/Pacific Islanders. The average mathematics score for Black 17-year-olds was higher in 2008 than it was in 1982, although there was no linear trend over the time period. The 2008 mathematics scores of 17-year-olds whose parents had graduated from college (316) were higher than the scores of those whose parents had attended, but not graduated from college (306); those whose parents had graduated from high school (296); and those whose parents had not graduated from high school (292).

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5 Although both the long-term trend NAEP and the main NAEP assess mathematics and reading, there are important differences in the content assessed, how often the assessments are administered, and how the results are reported. These and other differences mean that results from long-term trend and main NAEP cannot be compared directly. Main NAEP assessments change about every decade to reflect changes in curriculum in the nation's schools; new frameworks reflect these changes, while the long-term trend NAEP has remained relatively unchanged since its first administration.
6 Parents' education level refers to the highest education level attained by either parent.

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