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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Reading and Mathematics Score Trends

(Last Updated: May 2015)

NAEP long-term trend results indicate that the average reading and mathematics achievement of 9- and 13-year-olds improved between the early 1970s and 2012; however, only 13-year-olds made score gains from 2008 to 2012, and they did so in both subject areas. Average reading and mathematics achievement for 17-year-olds did not change significantly between the early 1970s and 2012 or between 2008 and 2012.

Since the 1970s, the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has collected periodic information on the reading and mathematics achievement of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds enrolled in public and private schools. Long-term trend NAEP results may differ from the main NAEP results presented in other National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publications since the long-term trend assessment measures a consistent body of knowledge and skills over an extended period, while the main NAEP undergoes changes periodically to reflect current curricula and emerging standards.1

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Figure 1. Average reading scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), by age: Selected years, 1971 through 2012
Figure 1. Average reading scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), by age: Selected years, 1971 through 2012

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. NAEP scores range from 0 to 500. Several administrative changes were initiated beginning with the 2004 assessment, including allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English language learners. To assess the impact of these revisions, two assessments were conducted in 2004, one based on the original assessment and one based on the revised assessment. In 2008 and 2012, only the revised assessment was used.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (NCES 2013-456). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.85.

Figure 2. Average mathematics scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), by age: Selected years, 1973 through 2012
Figure 2. Average mathematics scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), by age: Selected years, 1973 through 2012

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. NAEP scores range from 0 to 500. Several administrative changes were initiated beginning with the 2004 assessment, including allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English language learners. To assess the impact of these revisions, two assessments were conducted in 2004, one based on the original assessment and one based on the revised assessment. In 2008 and 2012, only the revised assessment was used.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (NCES 2013-456). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 222.85.

Figure 3. Average reading scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 13-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1971 through 2012
Figure 3. Average reading scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 13-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1971 through 2012

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. NAEP scores range from 0 to 500. Several administrative changes were initiated beginning with the 2004 assessment, including allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English language learners. To assess the impact of these revisions, two assessments were conducted in 2004, one based on the original assessment and one based on the revised assessment. In 2008 and 2012, only the revised assessment was used.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (NCES 2013-456). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 221.85.

Figure 4. Average mathematics scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 17-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1973 through 2012
Figure 4. Average mathematics scale scores on the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 17-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1973 through 2012

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. NAEP scores range from 0 to 500. Several administrative changes were initiated beginning with the 2004 assessment, including allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English language learners. To assess the impact of these revisions, two assessments were conducted in 2004, one based on the original assessment and one based on the revised assessment. In 2008 and 2012, only the revised assessment was used.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (NCES 2013-456). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 222.85.


1 Several administrative changes, including the addition of allowing accommodations for students with disabilities and for English language learners, were initiated in the 2004 long-term trend assessment and have been carried forward in more recent data collections. Despite these changes to the assessment, the trend analysis is still valid.

2 Except in 2004 for the original unrevised assessment. Scores from the original and revised assessments are not directly comparable, and comparisons should be made with caution.

Supplemental Information

Table 221.85 (Digest 2013): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score, by age and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 1971 through 2012;
Table 222.85 (Digest 2013): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score, by age and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 1973 through 2012
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