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Reading

Question:
How are American students performing in reading?

Response:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation. NAEP reading scale scores range from 0 to 500 for all grade levels. NAEP achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, and Advanced indicates superior performance beyond proficient. NAEP reading assessments have been administered periodically since 1992, more frequently in grades 4 and 8 than in grade 12.1 The most recent reading assessments were conducted in 2017 for grades 4 and 8 and in 2015 for grade 12.2

The average reading score for 4th-grade students in 2017 (222) was not measurably different from the score in 2015, but it was higher than the score in 1992 (217). For 8th-grade students, the average reading score in 2017 (267) was higher than the scores in both 2015 and 1992 (265 and 260, respectively). The average reading score for 12th-grade students in 2015 (287) was not measurably different from the score in 2013, but it was lower than the score in 1992 (292).


Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students: Selected years, 19922017

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The reading scale scores range from 0 to 500. Assessment was not conducted for grade 8 in 2000 or for grade 12 in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2017. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992 and 1994.


In 2017, some 68 percent of 4th-grade students performed at or above the Basic achievement level in reading, 37 percent performed at or above the Proficient level, and 9 percent performed at the Advanced level. The percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at or above Basic in 2017 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2015, but it was higher than the percentage in 1992 (62 percent). In addition, the percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at or above Proficient in 2017 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2015, but it was higher than the percentage in 1992 (29 percent). Similarly, the percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at the Advanced achievement level in 2017 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2015, but it was higher than the percentage in 1992 (6 percent).

In 2017, some 76 percent of 8th-grade students performed at or above Basic in reading, 36 percent performed at or above Proficient, and 4 percent performed at the Advanced level. The percentage of 8th-grade students who performed at or above Basic in 2017 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2015, but it was higher than the percentage in 1992 (69 percent). A higher percentage of 8th-grade students performed at or above Proficient in 2017 than in both 2015 and 1992 (34 and 29 percent, respectively). The percentage of 8th-grade students who performed at the Advanced level was higher in 2017 than in 1992 (3 percent). In addition, a higher percentage of 8th-grade students performed at the Advanced level in 2017 than in 2015, although in both years the percentage rounded to 4 percent (3.6 percent in 2015 and 4.3 percent in 2017).

In 2015, some 72 percent of 12th-grade students performed at or above Basic in reading, 37 percent performed at or above Proficient, and 6 percent performed at the Advanced level. A lower percentage of 12th-grade students performed at or above Basic in 2015 than in 2013 (75 percent) and 1992 (80 percent). The percentage of 12th-graders who performed at or above Proficient in 2015 (37 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2013, but it was lower than the percentage in 1992 (40 percent). A higher percentage of 12th-grade students performed at the Advanced level in 2015 (6 percent) than in 2013 and 1992 (5 and 4 percent, respectively).

1 This Fact presents data from the Main NAEP reading assessment, which is not directly comparable to the Long-Term Trend NAEP reading assessment. The Main NAEP reading assessment was first administered in 1992 and assesses student performance at grades 4, 8, and 12, while the Long-Term Trend NAEP reading assessment was first administered in 1971 and assesses student performance at ages 9, 13, and 17. In addition, the two assessments differ in the content assessed, how often the assessment is administered, and how the results are reported.

2 NAEP reading scores for 4th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 222 and a standard deviation (SD) of 38. NAEP reading scores for 8th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 267 and an SD of 36. NAEP reading scores for 12th-grade students in 2015 had a mean of 287 and an SD of 41 (retrieved March 13, 2018, from the Main NAEP Data Explorer, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (2018-144), Reading Performance.

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