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Student Groups

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are reported on The Nation's Report Card for the nation, states and select districts, and for unique populations of diverse student groups that share similar characteristics, including

  • race/ethnicity,
  • gender,
  • eligibility for free/reduced-price school lunch,
  • highest level of parental education,
  • type of school,
  • charter school,
  • school location,
  • region of the country,
  • status as students with disabilities (SD), and/or
  • status as English learners (EL).

Based on participation rate criteria, results are reported for subpopulations only when sufficient numbers of students and adequate school representation are present. The minimum requirement is 62 students in a particular group from at least five primary sampling units (PSUs). However, the data for all students, regardless of whether their group was reported separately, were included in computing overall results.

NAEP Data Explorer

Explore results of specific assessments across multiple years and broken down across a variety of student groups with the NAEP Data Explorer. Create customizable tables and graphs to display NAEP data.

Learn More


Prior to 2011, student race/ethnicity was obtained from school records and reported for the six mutually exclusive categories shown below:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Asian/Pacific Islander
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic
  • Other or unclassified
  • White

Students who identified with more than one of the other five categories were classified as “other” and included as part of the "unclassified" category along with students who had a background other than the ones listed or whose race/ethnicity could not be determined.

In compliance with new standards from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for collecting and reporting data on race/ethnicity, additional information was collected beginning in 2011 so results could be reported separately for Asian students, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students, and students identifying with two or more races. Beginning in 2011, all of the students participating in NAEP were identified as one of the seven racial/ethnic categories listed below:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Two or More Races
  • White

As in earlier years, students identified as Hispanic were classified as Hispanic even if they were also identified with another racial/ethnic group. Students who identified with two or more of the other racial/ethnic groups (e.g., White and Black) would have been classified as “other” and reported as part of the "unclassified" category prior to 2011, and classified as “Two or More Races.” Results for these students are presented under the “Two or More Races” category in the graphics and tables in the reports.

When comparing the results for racial/ethnic groups from recent assessment years to assessment years prior to 2011, the data for Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students were combined into the Asian/Pacific Islander category.


Results are reported separately for male and female students.

Eligibility for Free/Reduced-Price School Lunch

As part of the Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program (NSLP), schools can receive cash subsidies and donated commodities in turn for offering free or reduced-price lunches to eligible children.

NAEP first began collecting data in 1996 on student eligibility for NSLP as an indicator of poverty. Based on available school records, students were classified as either currently eligible for the free/reduced-price school lunch or not eligible. Eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches is determined by students' family income in relation to the federally established poverty level. Students from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level qualify to receive free lunches and those from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty level qualify to receive reduced-price lunch. For the period July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, for a family of four, 130 percent of the poverty level is $34,450 and 185 percent is $49,025.

The classification applies only to the school year when the assessment was administered (i.e., the 2021–22 school year) and is not based on eligibility in previous years. If school records were not available, the student was classified as "Information not available." If the school did not participate in the program, all students in that school were classified as Information not available. Because of the improved quality of the data on students' eligibility for NSLP, the percentage of students for whom information was not available has decreased compared to the percentages reported prior to the 2003 assessment.

As a result of the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools can use a new universal meal service option, the “Community Eligibility Provision” (CEP). Through CEP, eligible schools can provide meal service to all students at no charge, regardless of economic status and without the need to collect eligibility data through household applications. CEP became available nationwide in the 2014-2015 school year; as a result, the percentage of students in many states categorized as eligible for NSLP may have increased in comparison to 2013. Therefore, readers should interpret NSLP trend results with caution.

Parental Education

Parents' highest level of education is defined by the highest level reported by eighth-graders and twelfth-graders for either parent. Fourth-graders were not asked to indicate their parents' highest level of education because their responses in previous studies were highly variable, and a large percentage of them chose the "I don't know" option. Parental education attainment is one component used to measure student's socioeconomic status (SES).

Type of School

The national results are based on a representative sample of students in both public schools and nonpublic schools. Nonpublic schools include private schools, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, and Department of Defense schools. Private schools include Catholic, Conservative Christian, Lutheran, and other private schools. Results are reported for private schools overall, as well as disaggregated by Catholic and other private schools. The state results are based on public school students only.

Charter School

A pilot study of America’s charter schools and their students was conducted as part of the 2003 NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics at grade 4. Results are also available for charter schools starting in 2005 at grade 8 and 2009 at grade 12. Results for this variable are reported for public school students.

Type of Location

NAEP results are reported for four mutually exclusive categories of school location: city, suburb, town, and rural. The categories are based on standard definitions established by the Federal Office of Management and Budget using population and geographic information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Schools are assigned to these categories in the NCES Common Core of Data based on their physical address.

In 2007, the classification system was revised; therefore, trend comparisons to previous years are not available. The new locale codes are based on an address's proximity to an urbanized area (a densely settled core with densely settled surrounding areas). The original system was based on metropolitan statistical areas. To distinguish the two systems, the new system is referred to as "urban-centric locale codes." The urban-centric locale code system classifies territory into four major types: city, suburban, town, and rural. Each type has three subcategories. For city and suburb, these are gradations of size—large, midsize, and small. Towns and rural areas are further distinguished by their distance from an urbanized area. They can be characterized as fringe, distant, or remote.


Prior to 2003, NAEP results were reported for four NAEP-defined regions of the nation: Northeast, Southeast, Central, and West. As of 2003, to align NAEP with other federal data collections, NAEP analysis and reports have used the U.S. Census Bureau's definition of "region." The four regions defined by the U.S. Census Bureau are Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. The Central region used by NAEP before 2003 contained the same states as the Midwest region defined by the U.S. Census. The former Southeast region consisted of the states in the Census-defined South minus Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, and the section of Virginia in the District of Columbia metropolitan area. The former West region consisted of Oklahoma, Texas, and the states in the Census-defined West. The former Northeast region consisted of the states in the Census-defined Northeast plus Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and the section of Virginia in the District of Columbia metropolitan area. Therefore trend data by region are not provided for the 2005 science assessment. The list below shows how states are subdivided into these Census regions. All 50 states and the District of Columbia are listed. Other jurisdictions, including the Department of Defense Educational Activity schools, are not assigned to any region. In 2009, the results were not available for this variable due to insufficient sample sizes to permit reliable estimates at grade 12.

States within regions of the country defined by the U.S. Census Bureau

  • Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • South: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia
  • Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
  • West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration.

Students with Disabilities (SD)

Results are reported for students who were identified by school records as having a disability. A student with a disability may need specially designed instruction to meet his or her learning goals. A student with a disability will usually have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which guides his or her special education instruction. Students with disabilities are often referred to as special education students and may be classified by their school as learning disabled (LD) or emotionally disturbed (ED). The goal of NAEP is that students who are capable of participating meaningfully in the assessment are assessed, but some students with disabilities selected by NAEP may not be able to participate, even with the accommodations provided. Beginning in 2009, NAEP disaggregated students with disabilities from students who were identified under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

English Learners (EL)

Results are reported for students who were identified by school records as English learners (EL). Note that EL students were previously referred to as limited English proficient (LEP).

Last updated 14 October 2022 (JM)