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For the past 35 years, NAEP's long-term trend assessments have documented trends in the academic achievement of America's students. This indicator examines the changes in students' performance in reading and mathematics from the early 1970s through 2004.
Average scale scores represent the performance of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds in reading or mathematics averaged across the nation. Student performance is summarized on a 0-500 scale for both reading and mathematics, where the different points on the scale represent what students know and can do at a given point in time. The line graphs below are provided to depict student performance on this scale across the years in both subject areas. The average scale score attained by students in each assessment year is indicated on the graph. The average scores for years prior to 2004 are highlighted with an asterisk (*) when the score is significantly higher or lower than the average score in 2004.
For nine-year-olds, the average reading score at age 9 was higher in 2004 than in any previous assessment year (figure 1). For thirteen-year-olds, the average score at age 13 was higher in 2004 than in 1971, but not measurably different from the average score in 1999 (figure 1). For seventeen-year-olds, between 1999 and 2004, average reading scores at age 17 showed no measurable changes. The average score in 2004 was similar to that in 1971 (figure 1).
The differences in scores for White and Black students have decreased between the first (1971) and the most recent (2004) assessments across all three ages, although White students scored higher on average than Black students at each age level in 2004 (not shown, see figure 3-2 in NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress).
For nine-year-olds, the average score at age 9 was higher in 2004 than in any previous year—up 9 points from 1999 and 22 points from 1973 (figure 2). For thirteen-year-olds, the average score in 2004 was higher than in any other assessment year. The 5- point increase between 1999 and 2004 resulted in an average score in 2004 that was 15 points higher than the average score in 1973 (figure 2). For seventeen-year-olds, the average score was not measurably different from the average score in 1973 or 1999 (figure 2).
The differences in average-scores for White and Black students at all ages decreased between the first (1973) and the most recent (2004) assessments in mathematics, although White students continued to outperform Black students in 2004 (not shown, see figure 3-6 in NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress).