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Indicators

Reading Performance
(Last Updated: May 2015)

The average grade 8 reading score was higher in 2013 than in 2011, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. At grade 4, the average score in 2013 was not measurably different from the score in 2011. Similarly, at grade 12 the average score in 2013 was not measurably different from that in 2009.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12. NAEP reading scores range from 0 to 500 for all grade levels. NAEP achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, and Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. NAEP reading assessments are administered periodically: prior to 2013, the most recent assessment data were collected at grades 4 and 8 in 2011 and at grade 12 in 2009.


Figure 1. Average reading scale scores of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students: Selected years, 1992–2013

Figure 1. Average reading scale scores of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students: Selected years, 1992–2013

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Assessment was not conducted for grade 8 in 2000 or for grade 12 in 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2011. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992 and 1994.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1992–2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.10.


In 2013, the average reading score for 4th-grade students (222) was not measurably different from the 2011 score, but it was higher than the scores on assessments between 1992 (217) and 2009 (221). For 8th-grade students, the average reading score in 2013 (268) was more than 2 points higher than in 2011 (265), was 8 points higher than in 1992 (260), and was higher than the average scores in all previous years. In 2013, the average reading score for 12th-grade students (288) was not measurably different from the score in 2009, but it was 4 points lower than in 1992 (292).


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading achievement levels: Selected years, 1992–2013

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading achievement levels: Selected years, 1992–2013

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, and Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Assessment was not conducted for grade 8 in 2000 or for grade 12 in 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2011. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992 and 1994. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1992–2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.12.


In 2013, the percentage of 4th-grade students performing at or above the Basic achievement level (68 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2011 but was higher than the percentage in 1992 (62 percent). A higher percentage of 4th-grade students performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in 2013 (35 percent) than in 2011 (34 percent) and 1992 (29 percent). Among 8th-grade students, the percentage performing at or above Basic in 2013 (78 percent) was higher than in 2011 (76 percent) and 1992 (69 percent). A higher percentage of 8th-grade students performed at or above Proficient in 2013 (36 percent) than in 2011 (34 percent) and 1992 (29 percent). Among 12th-grade students, the percentage performing at or above Basic in 2013 (75 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009, but was lower than the percentage in 1992 (80 percent). The percentage of 12th-graders performing at or above Proficient in 2013 (38 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009 but was lower than the percentage in 1992 (40 percent).


Figure 3. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: 1992, 2011, and 2013

Figure 3. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: 1992, 2011, and 2013

‡ Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992, 2011, and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.10.


At grade 4, the average reading score for White students was higher in 2013 (232) than in both 2011 (231) and 1992 (224). The 2013 scores for Black (206), Hispanic (207), and Asian/Pacific Islander (235) 4th-graders were not measurably different from the 2011 scores, but the 2013 scores were higher than the 1992 scores. Average reading scores for 8th-grade White (276), Black (250), Hispanic (256), and Asian/Pacific Islander (280) students were higher in 2013 than in 2011 and 1992. In 2013, the scores for American Indian/Alaska Native 4th-graders (205) and 8th-graders (251) were not measurably different from the scores in 2011. Prior to 2011, separate data for Asians, Pacific Islanders, and students of Two or more races were not collected at the school level. At grade 4, the 2013 average reading scores for Asians (237), Pacific Islanders (212), and students of Two or more races (227) were not measurably different from the 2011 scores. At grade 8, Asian students scored higher in 2013 (282) than in 2011 (277); the 2013 scores for Pacific Islanders (259) and students of Two or more races (271) were not measurably different from the 2011 scores.

Closing achievement gaps is a goal of both national and state education policies. From 1998 through 2013, the average reading scores for White 4th- and 8th-graders were higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers. Although the White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps did not change measurably from 2011 to 2013 for either grade 4 or 8, some of the racial/ethnic achievement gaps have narrowed since the early 1990s. At grade 4, the White-Black gap narrowed from 1992 (32 points) to 2013 (26 points); at grade 8, the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 1992 (26 points) to 2013 (21 points).


Figure 4. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by sex: 1992, 2011, and 2013

Figure 4. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students, by sex: 1992, 2011, and 2013

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992, 2011, and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.10.


At grade 4, the average reading scores for male (219) and female (225) students in 2013 were not measurably different from those in 2011 but were higher than those in 1992 (213 and 221, respectively). At grade 8, the average reading score for male students in 2013 (263) was higher than in 2011 (261) and 1992 (254). The average score for female students was also higher in 2013 (273) than in 2011 (270) and 1992 (267). Since 1992, females have scored higher than males at both grades 4 and 8. In 2013, the gender gap was 7 points for 4th-grade students and 10 points for 8th-grade students. The gender gaps for both 4th- and 8th-grade students were not measurably different from the corresponding gaps in 2011 and 1992.

Since 1998, NAEP has collected data regarding student English language learner (ELL) status. In 2013 and in all previous assessment years since 1998, the NAEP average reading scale scores for non-ELL 4th- and 8th-graders were higher than the scores for their ELL peers. In 2013, the achievement gap between non-ELL and ELL students was 38 points at the 4th-grade level and 45 points at the 8th-grade level. The 2013 reading achievement gaps at both grade levels were not measurably different from the gaps in either 2011 or 1998.


Figure 5. Average reading scale scores of 12th-grade students, by sex and race/ethnicity: 1992, 2009, and 2013

Figure 5. Average reading scale scores of 12th-grade students, by sex and race/ethnicity: 1992, 2009, and 2013

‡ Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992, 2009, and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.10.


At grade 12, the average reading scale scores did not change measurably from 1992 to 2013 for White, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander students. For Black students, the 2013 average score (268) was lower than the score in 1992 (273) but was not measurably different from the 2009 score. Similarly, the score for American Indian/Alaska Native students in 2013 (277) was not measurably different from the score in 2009. In 2013, the reading scores for Asians, Pacific Islanders, and students of Two or more races were 296, 289, and 291, respectively.

Achievement gaps were also evident for 12th-grade students. The White-Black gap was wider in 2013 (30 points) than in 1992 (24 points), while the White-Hispanic gap in 2013 (22 points) was not measurably different from the gap in 1992.

The 2013 average scores for male (284) and female (293) 12th-grade students were not measurably different from the scores in 2009 but were lower than the scores in 1992 (287 and 297, respectively). The gender gap at grade 12 in 2013 (10 points) was not measurably different from the gap in 2009 or 1992. In 2013, non-ELL 12th-graders scored higher than their ELL peers by 53 points. The achievement gap between non-ELL and ELL students in 2013 was not measurably different from the gap in either 2009 or 1998.


Figure 6. Change in average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: Between 2011 and 2013

Figure 6. Change in average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: Between 2011 and 2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. "Gain" is defined as a significant increase from 2011 to 2013, "No Change" is defined as no significant change from 2011 to 2013, and "Loss" is defined as a significant decrease from 2011 to 2013.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2011 and 2013 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, tables 221.40 and 221.60.


NAEP results also permit state-level comparisons of the reading abilities of 4th- and 8th-grade students in public schools. While there was no measurable change from 2011 to 2013 in the average score for 4th-grade public school students nationally, average scores were higher in 2013 than in 2011 in Colorado, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Washington; scores were lower in 2013 than in 2011 in Massachusetts, Montana, and North Dakota. At grade 8, although the average reading score for public school students nationally was 2 points higher in 2013 than in 2011, only 12 states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington) plus the District of Columbia had higher scores in 2013 than in 2011. In the other states, scores did not change measurably from 2011 to 2013.


Figure 7. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by jurisdiction: 2013

Figure 7. Average reading scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by jurisdiction: 2013

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. "Large city" includes students from all cities in the nation with populations of 250,000 or more, including the participating districts.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The Nation's Report Card: A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading Trial Urban District Assessment (NCES 2014-466), figure 2. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 221.80.


NAEP also collects data for Trial Urban Districts at grades 4 and 8. The Trial Urban District Assessment is intended to focus attention on urban education and to measure the educational progress of participating large urban districts. The results of the 21 urban districts are based on the same reading assessment used to report national and state results. This allows each district to compare its performance to the performance of its home state as well as to that of other states and other participating districts.

In 2013, the 4th-grade large city average score (212) was lower than the national average score (221). Additionally, students in 15 urban districts had scores lower than the national average, while 4 had scores that were not measurably different. In contrast, students in two urban districts (Charlotte and Hillsborough County-FL) had scores higher than the national average. Similarly, the 8th-grade large city average score (258) was lower than the national average score (266). None of the urban districts had 8th-grade scale scores higher than the national average. However, students in two urban districts (Charlotte and Hillsborough County-FL) had scores that were not measurably different from the national average.

In 2013, fourth-graders in two urban districts (the District of Columbia and Los Angeles) performed better in reading than 4th-grade students did in 2011. There was a decline in Houston, while students in the other 18 urban districts showed no change. Eighth-graders in five urban districts (Baltimore City, Dallas, the District of Columbia, Fresno, and Los Angeles) improved upon the 2011 performance, while students in all other participating urban districts showed no change.

In terms of proficiency levels, 34 percent of 4th-grade public school students nationwide performed at or above the Proficient level in reading. Compared with this national average, two urban districts (Charlotte and Hillsborough County-FL) had more than 34 percent of students performing at or above the Proficient level at grade 4. At grade 8, about 34 percent of public school students nationwide performed at or above the Proficient level. None of the 21 urban districts had a percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level that was higher than the national average.


Glossary terms: Achievement gap, Achievement levels
Data Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education