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Reading

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment in reading comprehension is given every two years to students at grades 4 and 8, and approximately every four years at grade 12. The assessment measures reading comprehension by asking students to read selected grade-appropriate materials and answer questions based on what they have read. The results present a broad view of students’ reading knowledge, skills, and performance over time. The most recent reading assessment was given in 2019 to approximately 150,600 grade 4 students, 143,100 grade 8 students, and 26,700 grade 12 students.

Assessment Content

The reading framework specifies that the assessment use three types of literary texts and three broad categories of informational texts that vary by grade. The framework also outlines what reading knowledge and skills students should have to reach NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, and NAEP Advanced achievement. The reading framework was updated in 2009 and replaced the framework used for the 1992-2007 reading assessments. The reading assessment is administered as a digitally based assessment. Survey questionnaires, administered to students, teachers, and school administrators who participate in a reading assessment, are used to collect and report contextual information about students’ K-12 education and learning experience in and out of the classroom.


Icons representing each NAEP assessment subject in arts, civics, economics, geography, reading, mathematics, technology and engineering literacy, science, U.S. history, and writing.

How is Your State or District Performing?

State PerformanceSee snapshots of individual state performance in 2019 reading, and use the State Profiles tool to compare results of states/jurisdictions.
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District PerformanceSee snapshots of select state performance in 2019 reading, and use the District Profiles tool to compare results of districts/jurisdictions.

How Results Are Reported

Academic achievement in reading is presented in two ways on The Nations's Report Card: scale scores and NAEP achievement levels.

  • Scale scores represent how students performed on the reading assessment. Scores are aggregated and reported for diverse student groups for the nation, states, and districts.
  • NAEP achievement levels are performance standards that describe what students should know and be able to do.

Results are reported as percentages of students performing at or above three NAEP achievement levels (NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, and NAEP Advanced). Students performing at or above the NAEP Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).

Item maps illustrate how specific reading knowledge and skills correspond to different NAEP achievement levels. Item maps answer the question, "What does it mean for students to be at NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, or NAEP Advanced in terms of what they know and can do?"

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Last updated 21 September 2021 (AA)