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Mathematics

Question:
How are American students performing in mathematics?

Response:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in mathematics at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation. NAEP mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 500 for grades 4 and 8 and from 0 to 300 for grade 12. 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 mathematics assessments have been administered periodically since 1990, more frequently in grades 4 and 8 than in grade 12.1 The most recent mathematics assessments were conducted in 2017 for grades 4 and 8 and in 2015 for grade 12.2

The average 4th-grade mathematics score in 2017 (240) was not measurably different than the score in 2015, although it was higher than the score in 1990 (213). Similarly, the average 8th-grade mathematics score in 2017 (283) was not measurably different than the score in 2015, but it was higher than the score in 1990 (263). The average 12th-grade mathematics score in 2015 (152) was lower than the score in 2013 (153), but not measurably different from the score in 2005, the earliest year with comparable data.3


Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students: Selected years, 1990–2017

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

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. At grades 4 and 8, the mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 500. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1990 and 1992. Grade 12 mathematics scores are not shown because they are reported on a scale of 0 to 300.


In 2017, some 80 percent of 4th-grade students performed at or above the Basic achievement level in mathematics, 40 percent performed at or above the Proficient level, and 8 percent performed at the Advanced level. While the percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at or above Basic in 2017 was lower than in 2015 (82 percent), it was higher than the percentage in 1990 (50 percent). The percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at or above Proficient in 2017 (40 percent) was not measurably different than in 2015, but it was higher than in 1990 (13 percent). Similarly, the percentage of 4th-grade students who performed at the Advanced level in 2017 (8 percent) was not measurably different than the percentage in 2015, but it was higher than the percentage in 1990 (1 percent).

In 2017, some 70 percent of 8th-grade students performed at or above Basic in mathematics, 34 percent performed at or above Proficient, and 10 percent performed at the Advanced level. The percentage of 8th-grade students who performed at or above Basic was lower in 2017 than in 2015 (71 percent), but was higher than the percentage in 1990 (52 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who performed at or above Proficient in 2017 (34 percent) was not measurably different than the percentage in 2015, but was higher than the percentage in 1990 (15 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who performed at the Advanced level in 2017 (10 percent) was higher than the percentages in 2015 and 1990 (8 and 2 percent, respectively).

In 2015, some 62 percent of 12th-grade students performed at or above Basic in mathematics, 25 percent performed at or above Proficient, and 3 percent performed at the Advanced level. The percentage of 12th-grade students who performed at or above Basic in 2015 was lower than the percentage in 2013 (65 percent), but not measurably different from the percentage in 2005. The percentage who performed at or above Proficient (25 percent) was not measurably different from the percentages in 2013 and in 2005. Similarly, the percentage of 12th-grade students who performed at the Advanced level in 2015 (3 percent) was not measurably different from the percentages in 2013 and 2005.


1 This Fast Fact presents data from the Main NAEP mathematics assessment, which is not directly comparable to the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment. The Main NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1990 and assesses student performance at grades 4, 8, and 12, while the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1973 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 mathematics scores for 4th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 240 and a standard deviation (SD) of 31. NAEP mathematics scores for 8th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 283 and an SD of 39. NAEP mathematics scores for 12th-grade students in 2015 had a mean of 152 and an SD of 34 (retrieved March 13, 2018, from the Main NAEP Data Explorer, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/).

3 The 2005 mathematics framework for grade 12 introduced changes from the previous framework in order to reflect adjustments in curricular emphases and to ensure an appropriate balance of content. Consequently, the 12th-grade mathematics results in 2005 and subsequent years could not be compared to previous assessments, and a new trend line was established beginning in 2005.

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

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