April 2009
Authors: Bobby D. Rampey, Gloria S. Dion, and Patricia L. Donahue
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Improvements seen in reading and mathematics
Black students make greater gains from early 1970s than White students
Most racial/ethnic score gaps narrow compared to first assessment
For students whose parents did not finish high school, mathematics scores increase compared to 1978
Percentages of students taking higherlevel mathematics increasing
This report presents the results of the NAEP longterm trend assessments in reading and mathematics, which were most recently given in the 2007–08 school year to students at ages 9, 13, and 17. Nationally representative samples of over 26,000 public and private school students were assessed in each subject area.
The longterm trend assessments make it possible to chart educational progress since the early 1970s. Results in reading are available for 12 assessments going back to the first in 1971. The first of 11 assessments in mathematics was administered in 1973. Throughout this report, the most recent results are compared to those from 2004 and from the first year the assessment was conducted.
The original assessment format, content, and procedures were revised somewhat in 2004 to update content and provide accommodations to students with disabilities and English language learners. The knowledge and skills assessed, however, remain essentially the same since the first assessment year.
In reading, average scores increased at all three ages since 2004. Average scores were 12 points higher than in 1971 for 9yearolds and 4 points^{1} higher for 13yearolds. The average reading score for 17yearolds was not significantly different from that in 1971.
^{1The scorepoint change is based on the difference between unrounded scores as opposed to the rounded scores shown in the figure.}
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1971–2008 LongTerm Trend Reading Assessments.
In mathematics, average scores for 9 and 13yearolds increased since 2004, while the average score for 17yearolds did not change significantly. Average scores were 24 points higher than in 1973 for 9yearolds and 15 points higher for 13yearolds. The average mathematics score for 17yearolds was not significantly different from that in 1973.
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1973–2008 LongTerm Trend Mathematics Assessments.
Average reading scores were higher in 2008 than in the first assessment year for White, Black, and Hispanic students. Across the three age groups, increases from 1971 to 2008 were larger for Black students than for White students. Increases from 1975 to 2008 were greater for Hispanic than for White students at ages 9 and 17, but were not significantly different at age 13.
In comparison to 2004, average reading scores were higher in 2008 for White students at all three ages, for Black students at ages 9 and 13, and for Hispanic students at age 9.
Across all three age groups, increases in average mathematics scores from 1973 to 2008 were greater for both Black and Hispanic students than for White students.
In comparison to 2004, average mathematics scores were higher in 2008 for White students at age 9. There were no significant changes in scores for 9, 13, and 17yearold Black and Hispanic students or for 13 and 17yearold White students over the same period.
While the reading score gaps between White and Black students at all three ages showed no significant change from 2004 to 2008, the gaps did narrow in 2008 compared to 1971. White – Hispanic gaps in reading scores also showed no significant change from 2004 to 2008 but were smaller in 2008 than in 1975 at ages 9 and 17.
Across all three age groups, neither the White – Black nor White – Hispanic gaps in mathematics changed significantly from 2004 to 2008, but both were smaller in 2008 than in 1973.
Age group  Changes since 1971  

White

Black

Hispanic^{2}


Age 9

14 points

34 points

25 points

Age 13

7 points

25 points

10 points

Age 17

4 points

28 points

17 points

Age group  Changes since 2004  

White

Black

Hispanic


Age 9

4 points

7 points

8 points

Age 13

4 points

8 points


Age 17

7 points

Age group  Changes since 1973  

White

Black

Hispanic


Age 9

25 points

34 points

32 points

Age 13

16 points

34 points

29 points

Age 17

4 points

17 points

16 points

Age group  Changes since 2004  

White

Black

Hispanic


Age 9

5 points


Age 13


Age 17

Indicates the score was higher in 2008.  

Indicates there was no significant change in the score in 2008. 
^{2 Results for Hispanic students were first available in 1975. Therefore, the results shown in the 1971 section for Hispanic students are from the 1975 assessment.}
The average mathematics scores for 13 and 17yearolds whose parents did not finish high school were higher than they were 30 years ago. At age 13, the score in 2008 for students whose parents did not finish high school was not significantly different from the score in 2004 but was 23 points higher than in 1978. At age 17, the average mathematics score for students whose parents did not finish high school was 5 points higher in 2008 than in 2004 and 12 points higher than in 1978.
Scores for 13yearolds whose parents had higher levels of education were also higher in 2008 than in 1978 but not significantly different compared to 2004. There were no significant changes in the scores for 17yearolds whose parents had higher levels of education in comparison to 2004 or 1978.
Taking higherlevel mathematics courses was generally associated with higher scores on the 2008 mathematics assessment at ages 13 and 17. For example, 13yearolds who were enrolled in algebra classes scored higher on average than those enrolled in prealgebra or regular mathematics. The percentages of 13yearolds who reported taking prealgebra or algebra in 2008 were higher than the percentages in 1986. The percentage of 17yearolds who reported they had taken precalculus or calculus was higher in 2008 than in 1978, as was the percentage who had taken secondyear algebra or trigonometry.
# Rounds to zero.
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
NOTE: Results for 1986 are from the original assessment format, and results for 2008 are from the revised assessment format. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1986 and 2008 LongTerm Trend Mathematics Assessments.
* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
NOTE: The “prealgebra or general mathematics” response category includes “prealgebra or introduction to algebra” and “general, business, or consumer mathematics” and students who did not take any of the listed courses. The “other” response category includes students for whom the highestlevel mathematics course could not be determined due to missing or inconsistent responses. Results for 1978 are from the original assessment format, and results for 2008 are from the revised assessment format. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1978 and 2008 LongTerm Trend Mathematics Assessments.
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NCES 2009479 Ordering information
Suggested Citation
Rampey, B.D., Dion, G.S., and Donahue, P.L. (2009). NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress (NCES 2009–479). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.
For more information, see the results of the 2008 LongTerm Trend assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.