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Indicator 11: Mathematics Achievement
(Last Updated: February 2019)

From 1990 through 2017, the average mathematics scores for White 4th- and 8th-graders were higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers; however, some achievement gaps have narrowed over time. For example, the White-Black achievement gap at grade 4 narrowed from 32 points in 1990 to 25 points in 2017.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in mathematics at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation. NAEP mathematics scores range from 0 to 500 for grades 4 and 8 and from 0 to 300 for grade 12. NAEP mathematics assessments have been administered periodically since 1990, more frequently in grades 4 and 8 than in grade 12.1 The most recent mathematics assessments were conducted in 2017 for grades 4 and 8 and in 2015 for grade 12.2


Figure 11.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 19902017

Figure 11.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 19902017


NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range 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 1990 and 1992. Scale scores for American Indian/Alaska Native students were suppressed in 1990 and 1992 and for Asian/Pacific Islander students in 2000 because reporting standards were not met (either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater). Data on race/ethnicity are based on school reports. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 19902017 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 222.10.


At grade 4, the 2017 average mathematics scores for White (248), Black (223), Hispanic (229), and Asian/Pacific Islander students (258) were not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015, but the average score for each group was higher in 2017 than in 1990 (220, 188, 200, and 225, respectively). In 2017, the average score for American Indian/Alaska Native 4th-graders (227) was not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015 and 1996 (1996 was the first year data for American Indian/Alaska Native students at grade 4 met reporting standards).

In 2011, NAEP began reporting separate data for Asian students, Pacific Islander students, and students of Two or more races.3 At grade 4, the 2017 average mathematics scores for Asian students (260), Pacific Islander students (229), and students of Two or more races (245) were not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015 and 2011.

At grade 4 in 2017, White students scored 25 points higher than Black students, 21 points higher than American Indian/Alaska Native students, 19 points higher than both Hispanic and Pacific Islander students, and 4 points higher than students of Two or more races. Asian students scored 12 points higher than White students.

Closing achievement gaps is a goal among education policymakers. Between 1990 and 2017, the average mathematics score for White 4th-graders was higher than the scores for their Black and Hispanic peers in each assessment year. However, the White-Black gap narrowed from 32 points in 1990 to 25 points in 2017. The White-Hispanic gap in 2017 (19 points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 1990.


Figure 11.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 19902017

Figure 11.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 19902017


NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range 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 1990 and 1992. Scale scores for American Indian/Alaska Native students in 1990, 1992, and 1996, and for Asian/Pacific Islander students in 1996 were suppressed because reporting standards were not met (either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater). Data on race/ethnicity are based on school reports. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 19902017 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 222.10.


At grade 8, the 2017 average mathematics scores for White (293), Black (260), Hispanic (269), and Asian/Pacific Islander (310) students were not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015, but the average score for each group was higher in 2017 than in 1990 (270, 237, 246, and 275, respectively). For American Indian/Alaska Native students, the average score in 2017 (267) was not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015 and 2000 (2000 was the first year data for American Indian/Alaska Native students at grade 8 met reporting standards). The average scores for Pacific Islander students (274) and students of Two or more races (287) in 2017 were not measurably different from the corresponding scores in 2015 and 2011. The 2017 average score for Asian students (312) was not measurably different from the corresponding score in 2015, but it was higher than the corresponding score in 2011 (305).

At grade 8 in 2017, White students scored 32 points higher than Black students, 25 points higher than American Indian/Alaska Native students, 24 points higher than Hispanic students, 18 points higher than Pacific Islander students, and 6 points higher than students of Two or more races. Asian students scored 19 points higher than White students. The White-Black achievement gap in 2017 (32 points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 1990. Similarly, the White-Hispanic achievement gap in 2017 (24 points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 1990.


Figure 11.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 12th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 20052015

Figure 11.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 12th-grade students, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 20052015


‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 300. Assessments were not conducted for grade 12 in 2007, 2011, and 2017. Due to major changes to the framework and content of the grade 12 assessment, scores from 2005 and later assessment years cannot be compared with scores from earlier assessment years. Data on race/ethnicity are based on school reports. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 20052015 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 222.10.


At grade 12, the 2015 average mathematics scores were not measurably different from the 2013 scores for any racial/ethnic group. The 2015 scores were higher for White (160), Black (130), and Hispanic (139) students than in 2005 (157, 127, and 133, respectively), the first year a comparable assessment was administered.4,5

Achievement gaps were also evident for 12th-grade students. At grade 12 in 2015, White students scored 30 points higher than Black students and 22 points higher than both American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic students (2015 data for Pacific Islander students did not meet reporting standards). Asian students scored 11 points higher than White students. The scores for White 12th-grade students were higher than the scores for their Black and Hispanic peers in every survey year since 2005. The White-Black achievement gap in 2015 (30 points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 2005. Similarly, the White-Hispanic achievement gap in 2015 (22 points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 2005.

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Endnotes

1 This indicator presents data from the Main NAEP mathematics assessment, which is not directly comparable with the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment. The Main NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1990 and assesses student performance at grades 4, 8, and 12; the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1973 and assesses student performance at ages 9, 13, and 17. In addition, the two assessments differ in the content assessed, how often the assessment is administered, and how the results are reported.
2 NAEP mathematics scores for 4th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 240 and a standard deviation (SD) of 31. NAEP mathematics scores for 8th-grade students in 2017 had a mean of 283 and an SD of 39. NAEP mathematics scores for 12th-grade students in 2015 had a mean of 152 and an SD of 34 (retrieved March 13, 2018, from the Main NAEP Data Explorer, https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/).
3 While NAEP reported some data on students of Two or more races for earlier years, the reporting standards changed in 2011.
4 Prior to 2011, separate data for Asian students, Pacific Islander students, and students of Two or more races were not collected; therefore, these groups were not included in the comparison of 2005 and 2015 scores.
5 The 2005 mathematics framework for grade 12 introduced changes from the previous framework in order to reflect adjustments in curricular emphases and to ensure an appropriate balance of content. Consequently, the 12th-grade mathematics results in 2005 and subsequent years could not be compared to previous assessments, and a new trend line was established beginning in 2005.