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Indicator 15: Reading Scores by Computer Use and Internet Access at Home

In 2015, the average NAEP reading scale score was higher for 8th-grade students who used a computer at home (268) than for those who did not use a computer at home (247). Similarly, the average reading scale score was higher for 8th-grade students who had access to the Internet at home (267) than for those who did not have access to the Internet at home (242).

Using data collected in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading administration, this indicator describes associations between students' computer use and internet access at home and their reading assessment scores. Achievement gaps between those who reported using a computer at home/having access to the Internet at home and those who did not could be influenced by other factors, including socioeconomic background characteristics such as parents' educational attainment and family income.1 NAEP assesses student performance in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation.2 NAEP reading assessments have been administered periodically since 1992, with the most recent assessments occurring in 2015. The 2015 NAEP reading assessment was administered in a paper-and-pencil format. In addition to administering the reading assessment, NAEP includes a student questionnaire to provide context for student performance. The NAEP student questionnaire includes questions on demographics, as well as questions about students' use of computers and access to the Internet at home.

In 2015, average reading scale scores varied according to whether students reported that they used a computer at home and whether they had access to the Internet at home. Differences were observed at both grades, as well as across various student and school characteristics, including sex, racial/ethnic group, English language learner (ELL) status, school poverty status,3 and school locale. The NAEP reading scores range from 0 to 500 for all grade levels.4


Figure 15.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and computer use at home: 2015

Figure 15.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and computer use at home: 2015

NOTE: Scale ranges from 0 to 500. Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


On the 2015 reading assessment, students who used a computer at home scored higher than those who did not use a computer at home. The average 8th-grade reading scale score was 268 for students who used a computer at home, compared to 247 for those who did not use a computer at home. The average 4th-grade reading scale score was 225 for students who used a computer at home, compared to 209 for those who did not use a computer at home. This pattern was consistently observed across student and school characteristics. For example, the average 8th-grade reading scale scores for students who used a computer at home and for those who did not were 270 vs. 251 for non-ELL students, and 226 vs. 216 for ELL students. Similarly, the average 8th-grade reading scale scores for students who used a computer at home and for those who did not were 282 vs. 258 for students in low-poverty schools, and 251 vs. 240 for students in high-poverty schools.

Although students who used a computer at home consistently scored higher on the 2015 reading assessment than those who did not use a computer at home, the size of differences in reading scale scores between those who reported using a computer at home and those who did not varied by racial/ethnic groups, ELL status, and school poverty status. For example, the reading score difference between 8th-grade students who used a computer at home and those who did not was larger for White students (20 points), than for Hispanic students (14 points) and Black students (11 points). The score difference was also larger for non-ELL 8th-grade students than for ELL 8th-grade students (19 points vs. 10 points), and larger for those in low-poverty schools than for those in high-poverty schools (24 points vs. 10 points). In addition, score differences varied by school locale: the differences were 23 points and 22 points for students in suburban and city schools, respectively, compared to 16 points each for those in town and rural schools. Most of these differences in reading scores associated with whether students used a computer at home were also observed at grade 4. One exception was that the difference in reading assessment scores between 4th-grade students who used a computer at home and those who did not use a computer at home did not measurably differ by school poverty status. In addition, the reading score difference between 4th-grade students who used a computer at home and those who did not was not measurably different between White students and Hispanic students.


Figure 15.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and internet access at home: 2015

Figure 15.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and internet access at home: 2015

NOTE: "Access to the Internet" was one item on a list preceded by the question "Do you have the following in your home?" For each item, students could either select "Yes" or leave the item blank. Students who left "Access to the Internet" blank are counted as having no internet access at home. Scale ranges from 0 to 500. Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


At both grade 4 and grade 8, average 2015 reading scale scores were higher for students who reported that they had access to the Internet at home than for those who did not. The average reading score was 267 for 8th-grade students who had access to the Internet at home, compared to 242 for those who did not have access. At grade 4, the average reading score was 227 for students who had access to the Internet at home, compared to 200 for those who did not have access. This pattern was consistently observed across student and school characteristics. For example, the average 8th-grade reading scale scores for students who had access to the Internet at home and those who did not were 263 vs. 237 for male students, and 272 vs. 248 for female students. Similarly, the average 8th-grade reading scale scores for students who had access to the Internet at home and for those who did not were 264 vs. 233 for students in city schools, 271 vs. 246 for students in suburban schools, 264 vs. 248 for students in town schools, and 267 vs. 245 for students in rural schools.

The size of differences in reading scale scores between those who had access to the Internet at home and those who did not varied by student and school characteristics. For example, the 2015 score difference for 8th-grade students was smaller for White students (19 points) than for Hispanic students (24 points) and Black students (26 points). By locale, the score difference was largest for 8th-grade students in city schools (31 points), followed by those in suburban (25 points) and rural schools (22 points), and smallest for those in town schools (15 points). The 8th-grade score differences associated with home internet access were not measurably different by sex, ELL status, and school poverty status.


1 Associations between socioeconomic characteristics and DLR access are presented in Section 1 of this report.
2 The results for grade 8 students are shown in the figures. The results for grade 4 students are available in reference tables cited at the end of the indicator.
3 In this indicator, low-poverty schools are those with 025 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and high-poverty schools are those with 76100 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. For more discussions on using free or reduced-price lunch data as a proxy for poverty, see the NCES blog "Free or reduced-price lunch: A proxy for poverty?".
4 While the scale is cross-grade, the skills tested and the material on the test increase in complexity and difficulty at each higher grade level, so different things are measured at the different grades even though a progression is implied.



Reference Tables

  • Table 5.1. (Digest table 221.35) Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score and percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-graders, by computer use and internet access at home and other selected characteristics: 2015