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Stuart Kerachsky
Acting Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

National Assessment of Educational Progress
NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress

April 28, 2009

Acting Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Powerpoint Presentation MS PowerPoint (3.2MB)

Introduction

Good morning. Today I am releasing the results of the 2008 NAEP Long-Term Trend Reading and Mathematics Assessments. For nearly four decades, we've used Long-Term Trend to chart changes in academic progress. Since it's been four years since the last results were released, I want to give you a brief overview of NAEP.

We have two basic types of assessments, what we call "Main NAEP" and "Long-Term Trend."

Main NAEP measures grade-based student performance in mathematics, reading, and other selected subjects every two years. These assessments are reported at the national, state, and large urban district levels.

Long-Term Trend NAEP provides national-level results for both public and private school students, assessed by age rather than grade, at ages 9, 13, and 17.

Unlike Main NAEP, Long-Term Trend does not provide state or district level results.

Long-Term Trend, which predates Main NAEP, has no Achievement Level standards. Achievement Levels were developed by the Governing Board for Main NAEP only.

Overview of the 2008 Long-Term Trend Assessment

In 2008 the assessment was administered to representative samples of about 9,000 students in each age group, for a total of about 26,000 students per subject. Each student was assessed in one subject: either reading or math.

We assessed 13-year-olds in the fall, 9-year-olds in the winter and 17-year-olds in the spring. Testing took about one hour.

While we place a priority on maintaining trend, we did make a number of changes in the long-term trend assessment in 2004, bringing the assessment up to date, both in its content and in its manner of administration. In addition, we now allow testing accommodations for students with disabilities and English language learners, as we do in other NAEP assessments.

In 2004 we administered the original and the revised long-term trend assessments to different yet equivalent samples of students. Our analysis of the results determined that the changes in content and administration had no measurable effect on student performance. Increased participation of special needs students through the use of accommodations did cause an apparent decrease in scores, but in most cases these decreases were not statistically significant. In 2008 we administered the revised assessment only.

Reading

Before I get into the results, let me give you some background on the reading assessment.

At all three ages, students were asked to

  • locate specific information in a text,
  • make inferences based on information located in two or more locations in the text, and
  • Identify the main idea of the text.

Scores for all three age groups are reported on a single 0500 point scale. Because NAEP results are based on samples, there is a margin of error associated with every score. When comparing NAEP scores, we only cite differences that are larger than the margin of error—those that are statistically significant.

Scores were up for 9-year-old students compared to both the earliest and the most recent prior assessment, by a statistically significant margin. The average score of 220 for these students in 2008 was higher than their average of 216 in 2004 and their average 208 in 1971.

The scores of 13-year-olds in 2008 were also higher than in both comparison years.

For 17-year-olds, scores in 2008 were higher than 2004 only.

The average scores of Black and White 9-year-old students in 2008 were higher than in any prior assessment.

The White-Black gap has narrowed only when compared to 1973.

Hispanic 9-year-olds also scored higher in 2008 than in any previous year.

The White-Hispanic gap was 21 points in 2008, not significantly different from the 25-point gap in 2004, but narrower than the 34-point gap in 1975, the first year for which we have data for Hispanic students.

The changes in the White-Black and White-Hispanic gaps for ages 13 and 17 follow a similar pattern.

When we compare scores for White, Black, and Hispanic students in 2008 with the scores for the first assessment year, we see improvement for all three groups at all three ages. When we compare scores in 2008 with scores in 2004, results are tempered. At age 9, there are increases for all three groups.

At age 13, scores are up for White and Black students, while those for Hispanic students did not change.

At age 17, scores are up for White students, while those for Black and Hispanic students did not change.

When we look at results by gender, scores are up since 1971 for both males and females at ages 9 and 13.

Since 2004, scores are up for males and females at age 9, and for males at ages 13 and 17.

Mathematics

Now I'll turn to the math assessment.

At each age level, students were assessed on their knowledge of

  • basic mathematical facts and formulas
  • ability to carry out computations using paper and pencil, and
  • ability to apply mathematics to daily-living skills.

Again, we placed scores for all three age groups on a single 0-500 point scale.

Let's start with the national average scores for different age groups. The score for 9-year-olds in 2008 was 24 points higher than in 1973 and 4 points higher than in 2004.

For 13-year-olds, the score in 2008 was also higher than in both comparison years. In fact, for both 9- and 13-year-olds, scores were higher in 2008 than in any prior assessment.

At age 17, the average score for 2008 was not significantly different from either 2004 or 1973.

The average score for White 9-year-olds in 2008 was higher than in any previous assessment. Black students scored higher in 2008 than in 1973 but not when compared to 2004.

Again, there was a narrowing of the gap only compared with the longer time period.

The 2008 score for 9-year-old Hispanic students was higher than in 1973 but not 2004. The 16-point White-Hispanic gap did not change from 2004 to 2008, but it was smaller than the gap in 1973.

The White-Black and White-Hispanic gaps at ages 13 and 17follow the same pattern as the gaps at age 9.

At ages 9, 13, and 17 scores were higher in 2008 than in 1973 for all three racial/ethnic groups in mathematics. In addition, the score increases for Black and Hispanic students were larger than the increases for White students, at all three age groups.

Let's stop here for a moment. You may be wondering--if we have increases for White, Black, and Hispanic students, how can the overall results for 17-year-olds show no change? If we look at demographics, the percentage of White students in the total 17-year-old student population has fallen since the early assessments, while the percentage of Hispanic students has risen. Since White students, on average, have higher scores than Hispanic students, the overall average has not changed significantly, even though scores have increased for all three student groups.

When compared to 2004, we see that while White 9-year-olds made improvements, no other groups showed significant change.

Both male and female students had higher scores in 2008 than in 1973, at ages 9 and 13. At age 17, there was no significant change.

Compared to 2004, scores in 2008 were higher for both males and females at age 9 and for males only at age 13. At age 17, again, there was no significant change.

In 1986 we began asking 13-year-olds about the mathematics courses they were taking. The percentage of students who were taking algebra rose from 16 percent in 1986 to 30 percent in 2008, while the percentage of students taking pre-algebra rose from 19 to 32 percent. At the same time, the percentage taking "regular mathematics" fell from 61 to 31 percent.

Looking at the average scores of 13-year-olds according to their current mathematics course, we found that students who were taking algebra had higher scores than those taking lower-level courses.

In 1978, we began asking 17-year-olds to identify the highest mathematics course they had taken. The percentage of students who had taken calculus or pre-calculus rose from 6 percent in 1978 to 19 percent in 2008, and the percentage who had taken second-year algebra or trigonometry rose from 37 percent to 52 percent.

When we look at the average scores of students according to the highest mathematics course they had taken, we found that students who had taken higher-level courses had higher scores.

I've presented a lot of information, so let me summarize.

In reading, scores are higher since 2004 for all three ages. Since 1971, scores are higher for 9- and 13-year-olds.

For mathematics, scores are higher since 2004 and 1973 for 9- and 13-year-olds only.

We have not seen any significant changes in Black-White or Hispanic-White score gaps since 2004.

With one exception, the White-Black and White-Hispanic gaps narrowed for all three ages and for both subjects since the first assessment year.

You'll find much more information in the long-term trend report card, along with additional information available from the NAEP website.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the schools and students who participated in this assessment.

Acting Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Powerpoint Presentation:
Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics MS PowerPoint (3.2MB)

Browse the Executive Summary of the report.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
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