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Long-term trends in reading and mathematics achievement

What are the long-term trends in student achievement in reading and mathematics?


Since the 1970s, the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has reported periodic data on the reading and mathematics achievement of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds enrolled in public and private schools.1 Five decades of results offer an extended view of student achievement in reading and mathematics.

In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a special administration of the NAEP long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics assessments for age 9 students to examine student achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2 Average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020. This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.

Average reading and mathematics scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): Selected years, 1971 through 2022

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

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2022.

NAEP reports scores at five selected percentiles to show the progress made by lower- (10th and 25th percentiles), middle- (50th percentile), and higher- (75th and 90th percentiles) performing students. In 2022, reading and mathematics scores for students at all five selected percentile levels declined compared to 2020. In both subjects, scores for lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students compared to 2020.

All students who took the long-term trend assessments in 2022 were asked if they ever attended school from home or somewhere outside of school for any duration during the last school year (2020–21) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy percent of 9-year-old students recalled learning remotely during the last school year, while 19 percent reported they did not learn remotely, and 11 percent did not remember.

Of the 70 percent of 9-year-olds who learned remotely during the 2020–21 school year, higher performers (those at or above the 75th percentile) had greater access to a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet all the time; a quiet place to work available some of the time; and a teacher available to help them with mathematics or reading schoolwork every day or almost every day compared to lower performers (those below the 25th percentile).

Percentage of 9-year-old students who recalled experiencing remote learning in 2020−21 school year in NAEP long-term trend reading, by selected percentiles and by selected survey questionnaire variables: 2022

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

NOTE: Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. This figure is reproduced from the original report. To view the “full question” links, please visit the report, which is hyperlinked in the SOURCE box, below.

1 Long-term trend NAEP results may differ from the main NAEP results presented in other National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publications. The long-term trend assessment measures a consistent body of knowledge and skills over an extended period, while the main NAEP undergoes changes periodically to reflect current curricula and emerging standards. In addition, several changes were made to the long-term trend assessment in 2004 to align it with current assessment practices and policies applicable to the NAEP main assessments. This included allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English learners. These changes have been carried forward in more recent data collections. Despite these changes to the assessment, the trend analysis is still valid.
2 Since the 1970s, the NAEP long-term trend assessments have been administered to monitor the academic performance of students across three age levels (9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students). This Fast Fact focuses on the comparison of age 9 students (typically in grade 4) between 2020 and 2022. A report summarizing results for 9-year-old students across all administrations back to the early 1970s will be released in the spring of 2023, along with results for 13-year-old students. For the latest NAEP long-term trend results for 13-year-olds, see Reading and Mathematics Score Trends from the Condition of Education (COE) 2022. For the latest NAEP long-term trend results for 17-year-olds, see Reading and Mathematics Score Trends from COE 2016.
3 The 1973 mathematics data are excluded from the analysis because they were extrapolated. For more information, see

SOURCE: 2022 Age 9 Long-Term Trend Reading and Mathematics Highlights Report. (2022). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from

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