Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics
National Assessment of Educational Progress
The Nation's Report Card: 12th-Grade Reading and Mathematics 2005
America's High School Graduates: Results from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study
February 22, 2007
Good morning. My name is Mark Schneider, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. I am here today to share with you the results of two reports on the academic performance of America's twelfth-graders-The Nation's Report Card: 12th-Grade Reading and Mathematics 2005 and America's High School Graduates: Results from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study.
BACKGROUND ON THE TWO REPORTS
The 2005 12th-grade reading and mathematics assessments were conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, as part of its regular assessment program, which also includes fourth- and eighth-graders. The 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study includes NAEP data, but also collects and analyzes transcript records from graduates across the country.
For both reports, results for private school students are included within the overall results released today. Not enough private schools participated, however, to allow us to release reliable results for the private school sector only or to make comparisons between public and private school performance.
In the NAEP reading assessment, student performance for all three grades are presented on a single 0-500 scale. In the NAEP mathematics assessment, student performance for twelfth-graders is presented on a separate 0-300 scale, with 150 set as the national average. NAEP scale scores tell us what students know and what they can do.
Student performance results are also reported according to three achievement levels established by the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. These levels are standards for what students should know and be able to do. There are three achievement levels-Basic, defined as "partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work;" Proficient, defined as "demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter;" and Advanced, which signifies "superior performance." The Proficient level is the desired level for all students.
The 2005 High-School Transcript Study includes such data as the percentage of 2005 high-school graduates who completed certain courses, the average number of credit hours taken by these students, and their average grade point averages. In addition, the report includes analyses of graduates' performance on the 2005 NAEP mathematics and science assessments, using data from the transcript study.
All results in both reports are based on samples rather than full populations, which means there is a margin of error associated with every score and percentage. All comparisons must be checked to determine whether differences between scores and between percentages are statistically significant-that is, that they are larger than the combined margin of error. Only statistically significant differences at the .05 level are discussed in these two reports.
12TH-GRADE READING AND MATHEMATICS 2005
In 2005, NCES assessed twelfth-graders in reading and mathematics for the first time since 2002. The assessments were administered in early 2005 at the national level to a representative sample of over 21,000 students in some 900 schools. There are no state-by-state results.
The average reading score for twelfth-graders fell 6 points from 1992 to 2005, from 292 to 286. There has been no significant change since 2002.
Twelfth-grade reading assessments were administered in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2005. In 1992 and 1994, no accommodations were offered for students with disabilities and English-language learners who needed them to participate. In 1998, NCES had two samples-one assessed without allowing accommodations and one assessed with them. Since then, NCES has allowed accommodations for students who require them, as long as the accommodation does not affect the validity of the assessment.
READING ACHIEVEMENT-LEVEL RESULTS
The percentage of twelfth-grade students at or above Proficient decreased from 40 percent in 1992 to 35 percent in 2005. The percentage at or above Basic also declined.
Examples of what students know and can do at each level can be found in the report.
READING RESULTS BY STUDENTS' RACE/ETHNICITY
Scores fell for both White and Black students from 1992 to 2005. Scores in 2005 for the other race and ethnic groups were not significantly different from 1992 or 2002.
The 26-point gap in performance between White and Black students in 2005, and the 21-point gap between White and Hispanic students, was not significantly different from the gaps in previous years.
READING RESULTS BY GENDER
Scores for both female and male students were lower in 2005 than in 1992. The 13-point gap in 2005 in favor of female students was larger than the 10-point gap in 1992.
The 2005 twelfth-grade mathematics assessment represents a change from previous assessments. The National Assessment Governing Board prepares new frameworks for the NAEP assessments every decade or so to stay current with changing educational objectives and curricula. The twelfth-grade mathematics assessment was based on a new framework in 2005, which means that we can't compare the 2005 results to previous assessments.
MATHEMATICS SCALE SCORE RESULTS
Because we have a new scale, there are no trend comparisons for mathematics for grade 12 that NCES is comfortable reporting. The average score for 2005 was 150, which was set by design.
MATHEMATICS ACHIEVEMENT-LEVEL RESULTS
With a new framework and a new test instrument, even though the names of the achievement levels remain the same, the percent of students at the various achievement levels cannot be compared with previous results. Educational progress over time therefore cannot be assessed. However, these data can be used for cross-sectional analysis. In 2005, sixty-one percent of twelfth-graders were at or above the Basic achievement level, and 23 percent were at or above Proficient.
For those interested in the issues involved in trying to solve the problems caused when new frameworks break trend lines, there are two reports posted on the NAEP web site that address these issues.
MATHEMATICS RESULTS BY STUDENTS' RACE/ETHNICITY
When looking at 2005 scores by race and ethnicity, Asian/Pacific Islander students had higher scores, on average, than the other racial/ethnic groups.
MATHEMATICS RESULTS BY GENDER
When examining results by gender, male students outperformed female students in 2005 by about 2 points. In reading, female students had a 13-point advantage over males.
2005 HIGH SCHOOL TRANSCRIPT STUDY
The second report I am releasing today is the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study, the fifth in a series that began in 1990. The High School Transcript Study is a national study that covers 2.7 million students who graduated in 2005. The results are based on a sample of 26,000 transcripts collected from over 700 public and private schools across the country. The study examines student course-taking patterns and grades, showing trends over time, demographic differences, and associations with NAEP achievement
GRADUATES EARNED MORE CREDITS THAN PREVIOUS GRADUATES
On average, graduates in 2005 earned 26.8 credits during high school-more than any previous graduation class for which NCES conducted a study. To standardize reports of course-taking, NCES uses the "Carnegie" definition of a "credit"-120 hours of classroom instruction.
The 2005 graduates earned more credits in "core" courses-English, mathematics, science, and social studies-than in any past study year. They also earned more credits in "other academic" courses-fine arts, foreign languages, and computer-related studies. NCES did not observe any changes in "other" courses, defined as any course that does not fall into either of the first two categories.
NCES defined three curriculum levels for this study: The "standard" level includes four credits in English and three each in the three remaining core subjects. The "midlevel" includes all of the standard credits plus more challenging requirements for mathematics and science and a foreign language requirement. The "rigorous" level includes all of the midlevel requirements plus additional credit requirements for mathematics, science, and foreign language. Any curriculum that does not meet the requirements for the standard level is considered "less than standard."
MORE GRADUATES COMPLETED AT LEAST A STANDARD CURRICULUM
The percentage of graduates who completed at least a standard curriculum rose from 40 percent in 1990 to 68 percent in 2005, higher than in any previous study year. In addition, the completion percentage was higher for all three levels in 2005 than in 1990. Comparing the percentages in 2005 to 2000, increases occurred for standard and midlevel curricula, but not for rigorous.
THE PATTERN FOR MATHEMATICS COURSE TAKING
Data from the 2005 transcript study show that students who take demanding mathematics courses in the ninth grade are more likely to go on to take more advanced mathematics courses in high school than those who do not. For example, only 6 percent of students whose ninth-grade mathematics course was less demanding than algebra I went on to complete either advanced mathematics or calculus. In contrast, 83 percent of students who began with geometry in ninth grade went on to more advanced courses.
The pattern for mathematics course-taking is, in large part, set in the freshman year, if not earlier. Students who do not take demanding courses in the ninth grade are unlikely to complete the kind of higher-level courses that research has shown prepare graduates for success in college and the world of work.
In 2005, NCES collected transcripts for a representative sample of graduates who also participated in NAEP, allowing NCES to compare relationships between Transcript Study findings and performance on NAEP in mathematics and science. In 2005, twelfth-grade NAEP scores for both mathematics and science are on 0-300 scales.
GRADUATES TAKING ADVANCED COURSES
The data show that mathematics scores on NAEP increase, on average, as graduates complete more advanced mathematics courses. For example, graduates who took calculus had an average score of 192 in 2005, higher than other students, which put them in the Proficient range. While some of these students did achieve at the Advanced level, the average score for students with the most extensive mathematical training fell short.
There is a similar pattern for science course-taking. Students who took "Advanced Science" courses had a NAEP science average of 173, again, higher than other students, although still in the Basic range. Advanced Science courses are defined as courses typically taken after physics, and include such courses as Advanced Placement physics and International Baccalaureate chemistry.
FEMALES COMPLETED MORE MIDLEVEL AND RIGOROUS CURRICULA
In 1990, female and male students completed similar curriculum levels. However, in 2005 a greater percentage of female graduates completed both rigorous and midlevel curricula than male graduates.
MALE STUDENTS EARNED HIGHER NAEP SCORES
Comparing performance by gender on NAEP according to the highest-level course taken in 2005 shows that among students whose highest-level course was the same, male graduates outperformed females on NAEP in mathematics in all but the lowest category (algebra I or below). The same pattern is found in science. Even though female students, on average, had a higher GPA in both mathematics and science than males, and took more rigorous curricula, male students had higher overall NAEP scores than females in both subjects.
BLACK GRADUATES CLOSED A 6 PERCENTAGE POINT GAP IN 2005
In 1990 the gap between White and Black graduates who completed a midlevel curriculum or higher was 6 percentage points, with White students more likely to complete this level of curriculum. In 2005 higher percentages of both groups completed such a curriculum, and the gap-1 point in favor of Black graduates-was no longer statistically significant.
THE 2005 GAP BETWEEN WHITE AND HIspanIC GRADUATES
In 2005 there was a 7-percentage point gap between White and Hispanic graduates who completed a midlevel curriculum or higher, with White students more likely to complete that level of curriculum. The gap did not show a statistically significant change from the 9-point gap in 1990, even though the percentage of both White and Hispanic graduates completing at least a midlevel curriculum was higher in 2005 than in any previous year.
WHITE GRADUATES HAD HIGHER AVERAGE NAEP MATHEMATICS SCORES
When comparing White and Black graduates in terms of highest-level mathematics course taken and performance on NAEP, completion of more advanced courses is associated with higher scores for both groups at every course level. White graduates had higher scores than Black students at each course level.
WHITE GRADUATES OUTPERFORMED HIspanIC GRADUATES
The same pattern is observed when comparing White and Hispanic graduates by highest-level course taken-scores were higher for both at every course level, but the average score for Hispanic graduates was lower than that for White graduates.
ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER GRADUATES OUTPERFORMED BLACK AND HIspanIC GRADUATES
Asian/Pacific Islander graduates also had increasingly higher scores at every course level. In addition, they had higher scores than Black and Hispanic graduates at every course level except geometry or algebra 1 or below, for which there were insufficient numbers of Asian/Pacific Islander graduates to obtain reportable results.
Complete information on both the Twelfth-Grade Reading and Mathematics Report Card and the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study is available on the web, including the full text of the reports, background on the studies, an online questions tool, and an online data tool that allows users to make additional comparisons on their own. Full text of the previously released 2005 NAEP Science Report Card, which has twelfth-grade data, is available as well.
I want to thank everyone who was involved in the two studies, especially the students and the schools who participated.
Commissioner Mark Schneider's Powerpoint Presentation:
The Nation's Report Card: Performance of 12th-Graders (6,562 KB)