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Reading Assessment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment is given every 2 years to students at grades 4 and 8, and approximately every 4 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 assessment was given in 2017 to approximately 148,800 students in grade 4 and 141,800 students in grade 8.

2017 Reading

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 science knowledge and skills students should have to reach Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement. The reading framework was updated in 2009 and replaced the framework used for the 1992-2007 reading assessments. 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’ learning experience in and out of the classroom.

How is Your State or District Performing?

See snapshots of individual state and district performance in 2017 reading:

How Reading Results Are Reported

Student performance on the NAEP reading assessment is reported in two ways: as scale scores and as achievement levels.

  • Scale scores represent how students performed on the reading assessment. Scores are aggregated and reported at the student group level for the nation, states, and districts.
  • 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 achievement levels (Basic, Proficient, and Advanced). Students performing at or above the 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 Basic, Proficient, or Advanced in terms of what they know and can do?"

How to Interpret Reading Results

Find out how to interpret the results of the reading assessment, including the potential effects of exclusion on assessment results.

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Explore Related NAEP Reading Studies

See the results of the 2002 oral reading study that was undertaken to discover how well the nation's fourth-graders can read aloud a typical grade 4 story.

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Last updated 17 January 2019 (AA)