Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics
NAEP 2015 Twelfth-Grade Mathematics and Reading Results
April 27, 2016
Today, we are releasing the results of the 2015 twelfth-grade mathematics and reading assessments from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or The Nation's Report Card. We released the 2015 mathematics and reading results for students in grades 4 and 8 last October.
Nationally representative samples of twelfth-graders from public and private schools across the nation participated in NAEP administered assessments from January through March of 2015. Approximately 13,200 students were assessed in mathematics and 18,700 students were assessed in reading. National results from the 2015 assessment are compared to results from the last assessment in 2013 and to the first assessment year for each subject, which was 2005 for mathematics and 1992 for reading.
Student performance on NAEP is reported in two ways: as average scale scores and as the percentage of students at the various NAEP achievement levels. NAEP achievement levels and the NAEP assessment frameworks are developed by the National Assessment Governing Board. When comparing scores and percentages, only statistically significant differences are discussed.
The current mathematics assessment framework was implemented in 2005, after substantial changes were made to the previous framework, and resulted in the creation of a new trend line. The grade 12 mathematics framework includes four content areas: (1) number properties and operations; (2) measurement and geometry; (3) data analysis, statistics, and probability; and (4) algebra. Scores for mathematics are reported on a scale from 0 to 300.
In 2015, the average mathematics scale score was 152. This was lower than in 2013, when the average scale score for all students was 153, but was not statistically different from the average score of 150 in 2005.
NAEP reports scores using percentiles to show trends in results for students performing at lower (the 10th and 25th percentiles), middle (the 50th percentile), and higher levels (the 75th and 90th percentiles). Average scale scores in 2015 were lower than those in 2013 for students at the 10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles. Scores for students at the 75th and 90th percentiles showed no significant change during this same timeframe.
Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level in mathematics should be able to recognize when particular concepts, procedures, and strategies are appropriate, and to select, integrate, and apply them to solve problems. The percentage of students performing at or above Proficient in 2015 did not change significantly compared to either 2013 or the first assessment year in 2005. The percentage of students who performed below Basic increased from 35 percent to 38 percent since 2013. In other words, a larger percentage of students performed at the lower end of the distribution range in 2015 than in 2013, while the percentage at the top of the range remained unchanged.
There were no significant score changes for any racial/ethnic group in 2015 compared to 2013, nor did the demographic composition of the NAEP sample change significantly. Compared to 2005, average scores increased for all racial/ethnic groups with the exception of American Indians/Alaskan Natives, while the overall average score for twelfth-graders has remained the same. The demographic composition also changed in comparison to 2005; the percentage of White students decreased, while the percentages of Hispanic students and students of Two or More Races increased.
Scores for both male and female students in 2015 decreased by two points compared to 2013. Neither male nor female students showed significant differences in performance compared to 2005.
NAEP uses student-reported levels of parental education as a socioeconomic status indicator when reporting results for grade 12 students, while eligibility for the National School Lunch Program is the indicator used for 4th and 8th grade students. In 2015, the average score for twelfth-graders who had a parent whose highest level of education was "did not finish high school" was 133; this was 4 points lower compared to 2013. The average score for grade 12 students who had a parent whose highest level of education was "some education after high school" was 149, which was 3 points lower compared to 2013. There were no significant score changes for any level of parental education compared to 2005.
In 2015, scores for students not classified has having disabilities decreased by 2 points since 2013 and increased by 2 points compared to 2005.
Students classified as English language learners were the only student group that had a significant score increase compared to 2013; their scores increased by 6 points. Scores for students who were not reported as English language learners decreased by 2 points in that same period.
Scores decreased by 2 points in all four of the mathematics content areas compared to 2013.
We will next look at the reading results. As with mathematics, the NAEP reading assessment is based on content specifications and assessment frameworks developed by the National Assessment Governing Board. The NAEP reading scale is 0 to 500, and comparisons are made to the most recent assessment in 2013 and to the initial assessment in 1992.
Grade 12 students had an average score of 287 in 2015, which was not significantly different from the score of 288 in 2013, but was lower than the average score of 292 in 1992. When looking at the results by percentile, we see that the scores for lower-performing students (those at the 10th and 25th percentiles) were lower in 2015 compared to both 2013 and 1992. However, the score for students at the 90th percentile was higher in 2015 compared to both 2013 and 1992. The score for students at the 50th percentile in 2015 was not significantly different compared to 2013, but was lower than in 1992. Scores for students at the 75th percentile were not significantly different compared to either 2013 or 1992. While we typically discuss score differences in NAEP in terms of gender or race/ethnicity, here we see a widening score gap across the performance distribution—scores for students at the lower percentiles have decreased, while scores for students at the highest percentile have increased.
Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to locate and integrate information using sophisticated analyses of the meaning and form of the text. Thirty-seven percent of students scored at or above Proficient in 2015, which was not significantly different from 2013. However, the percentage of students who scored at the Advanced level increased from 5 to 6 percent during this same time period. Thirty-five percent of grade 12 students in 2015 scored at the Basic level, which was a decrease from 2013, while the percentage of students scoring below Basic increased to 28 percent in 2015 from 25 percent in 2013.
In comparison to 1992, the percentage of students at or above Proficient was lower in 2015. From 1992 to 2015, the percentage of students at the Advanced level increased from 4 percent to 6 percent, while the percentages of students performing at the Proficient and Basic levels decreased. The percentage of students scoring below Basic increased from 20 percent in 1992 to 28 percent in 2015.
Similar to what we saw in mathematics, there were no score changes in 2015 compared to 2013 for any of the reported student groups, either by race/ethnicity or by gender. Compared to 1992, average scores decreased for Black students, male students, and female students. There was also a shift in the demographic makeup in 2015 compared to the 1992 NAEP sample. While the percentage of White students decreased from 74 percent in 1992 to 56 percent in 2015, over the same time period, the percentage of Hispanic students increased (from 7 percent to 21 percent), as did the percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander students (from 3 percent to 6 percent), American Indian/Alaskan Native students (from approximately zero to 1 percent), and students of Two or More Races (from 1 to 2 percent).
Scores for students across the range of parental education levels were not significantly different in 2015 compared to 2013, but were lower compared to 1992 for each of the four levels.
We did not see any significant differences in 2015 compared to 2013 based on student disability status or English language learner status.
Academic Preparedness for College
Since 2003, the Governing Board has been exploring the use of grade 12 NAEP results as an indicator of students' academic preparedness for college. A series of studies, conducted since 2008, indicate that students scoring at or above 163 on the NAEP grade 12 mathematics scale of 0 to 300 and students scoring at or above 302 on the NAEP reading scale of 0 to 500 are likely to possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities in those subjects that would make them academically prepared for college.
In 2015, thirty-seven percent of twelfth-grade students scored at or above 163 in mathematics compared to 39 percent in 2013. In reading, 37 percent of 12th-graders scored at or above 302 in 2015 compared to 38 percent in 2013. As the Governing Board continues to conduct research on NAEP and twelfth-grade academic preparedness for postsecondary education, the figures being reported today are on a provisional basis.
To summarize across both mathematics and reading, in 2015 the national average score in mathematics was lower compared to 2013 and the average score in reading was not significantly different. Compared to the first assessment years, the average mathematics score in 2015 was not significantly different from the score in 2005 and the average score in reading in 2015 was lower compared to 1992. For both subjects compared to 2013, scores were lower for students at the 10th and 25th percentiles, and there was no significant change in scores for any racial/ethnic group.
The results also indicate a widening difference in scores across the performance distribution in reading compared to 2013—scores for students at the lower percentiles have decreased, while scores for students at the highest percentile has increased.
These results and much more data can be explored via the online report card at http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/.
In conclusion, as always, I would like to offer our sincere thanks to the students, teachers, and schools who participated in the 2015 NAEP 12th grade reading and mathematics assessments.