Acting Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics
National Assessment of Educational Progress
The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2009
October 14, 2009
Today I am releasing the results of the 2009 mathematics assessment from the National Assessment of Educational Progress—the Nation's Report Card. This is the first of many reports we will be releasing in the coming months.
This assessment was given from late January through early March this year to fourth- and eighth-grade students across the country. Reading and science were also assessed during the same time period as mathematics, and reports detailing the results of those assessments will be coming out in 2010.
Close to 170,000 fourth-graders and over 160,000 eighth-graders participated in the mathematics assessments. These students were assessed in five mathematical content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics, and probability; and algebra.
We are reporting results for the nation and for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense school system.
We report student performance in two ways: by scale scores and achievement levels. NAEP scale scores indicate what students know and can do, and are reported on a scale ranging from 0 to 500 for mathematics. Achievement levels were developed by the National Assessment Governing Board. They set standards for what students should know and be able to do. For each subject and for each grade, the Governing Board has established standards for Basic, Proficient, and Advanced performance. Ultimately, the goal is to have all students performing at or above the Proficient level.
When comparing scores and other NAEP results we only discuss differences that are statistically significant. For the most part, we will be comparing students' performance in 2009 with scores from the last assessment, in 2007, and the first mathematics assessment, given in 1990.
Grade 4 Results
At grade 4, the average scale score for students in 2009 was not significantly different from 2007, but was higher than any earlier assessment This is the first time since these assessments began in 1990 that there was no score increase at grade 4.
To make the NAEP sample more representative of all students, we began offering accommodations to students with disabilities and English language learners in 1996. Today we continue to permit accommodations to students who need them to participate.
The percentage of students at or above the Basic and Proficient achievement levels did not change from 2007 to 2009, but the percentages in 2009 were higher than the comparable percentage in other earlier assessments. For example, 50 percent of students were at or above Basic in 1990 compared with 82 percent in 2009. The percentage of students at or above Proficient tripled from 13 percent in 1990 to 39 percent in 2009.
Looking at the performance of racial/ethnic groups for grade 4, we again see no significant change since 2007. There were increases for Asian/Pacific Islanders, Black, Hispanic, and White students since 1990. (The American Indian/Alaska Natives sample for 1990 was not large enough to give meaningful results.) The grade 4 White—Black score gap did not change from 2007 to 2009, remaining at 26 points. This was smaller, however, than the 32-point gap in 1990. The grade 4 White—Hispanic score gap also did not change from 2007 to 2009, remaining at 21 points. This gap was not significantly different from the 20-point gap in 1990.
NAEP reports results according to student eligibility for the National School Lunch program. We report three groups, ranked according to family income level: those students eligible for free lunches, those eligible for reduced-price lunches, and those whose family income is too high to make them eligible for this program. Because of changes in the availability of data, we are only highlighting comparisons back to 2003. For all three groups, we found that scores have not increased since 2007, but are higher than they were in 2003.
Results by type of school indicate that in all assessments private school students had higher scores than students attending public schools. Students in Catholic schools, the only subgroup of private schools that have a large enough sample to analyze reliably, also had higher scores than students attending public schools. Scores for students in all three of these types of schools were higher in 2009 than in 1990, but remain unchanged from 2007.
Now let's move to performance at the state level. We have results for all 50 states and two other jurisdictions—the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense school system. To simplify the discussion, I refer to all 52 as "states."
Since 2007, grade 4 mathematics scores increased in 8 states (Colorado, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), and decreased in 4 (Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia, and Wyoming). The District of Columbia was the only state to see increases for all reported student groups, as well as an overall score increase.
Grade 8 Results
Now we'll discuss the results for grade 8. Unlike grade 4, eighth-grade scores show continued improvement across all years, including the period from 2007 to 2009. Scores also increased in this period, as well as since 1990, for most student groups.
At grade 8, the average scale score for students in 2009 was the highest in the history of the assessment. We see the same pattern in achievement level results—the percentages of students at or above the Basic and Proficient levels were higher than the comparable percentages in any earlier assessment. Note, for example, that the percentage of students at or above Basic rose from 52 percent in 1990 to 73 percent in 2009. In addition, the percentage of students at or above Proficient rose from 15 percent in 1990 to 34 percent in 2009.
Looking at the performance of the major racial/ethnic groups for grade 8, we found increases for all groups since 1990, except for American Indian/Alaska Natives, where our sample for 1990 was not large enough to give meaningful results. Since 2007 we see the same pattern, with increases for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students, while the apparent point increase for American Indian/Alaska Natives was not statistically significant.
While scores for both White and Black students have improved since the beginning of the assessment, the grade 8 White—Black score gap did not change from 2007 to 2009, remaining at 32 points. This was also no different from the gap in 1990. The grade 8 White—Hispanic score gap also did not change from 2007 or from 1990 to 2009, although scores for both groups have increased.
When we consider results by eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, we see that for all three groups (students eligible for free lunches, reduced-price lunches, and those not eligible), scores in 2009 are at their highest point yet.
National results are also available for eighth-grade students in public and private schools. In 2009, private school students' scores were higher than in 1990, but not significantly different from 2007, while scores for public school students were higher than in 2007 or 1990. Catholic school students' scores demonstrate the same pattern as for public school students, with scores in 2009 higher than in both 1990 and 2007.
At the state level, since 2007, grade 8 mathematics scores increased in 15 states and no states saw a decrease. Scores in the District of Columbia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont increased at both grades 4 and 8. In Nevada, scores for Hispanic students increased in both fourth and eighth grades, while both Black and Hispanic students' scores increased at both grades in the District of Columbia.
In sum, the overall 2009 results show scores remaining level for grade 4 since 2007, with continued improvement seen for grade 8.
There is much more information in the 2009 Mathematics Report Card. In addition, the initial release website contains extensive information on the performance of students in each state, access to released assessment questions through NAEP's enhanced Questions Tool, and the ability to do your own analyses through the NAEP Data Explorer, our online data-analysis tool.
In closing, I would like to thank all the students and schools who participated in these assessments.