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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Mathematics and Reading Achievement

The extent and content of students' knowledge, as well as their ability to think, learn, and communicate, affect their likelihood of becoming productive adults and active citizens. Mathematics and reading achievement test scores are important measures of students' skills in these subject areas and are good indicators of overall achievement in school. To assess progress in mathematics and reading, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures trends in the academic performance of students in grades 4, 8, and 12.

Indicator Ed2.A: Average mathematics scale scores for students in grades 4, 8, and 12 selected years 1990–2011
Average mathematics scale scores for students in grades 4, 8, and 12 selected years 1990–2011

NOTE: Data are available for 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011, although the 2003, 2007, and 2011 assessments only included grades 4 and 8. After 2000, assessment results for grade 12 are not comparable with those from previous assessment years. In the early years of the assessment, testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and limited-English proficient students were not permitted. In 1996, scores are provided for both the assessments with and without accommodations to show comparability across the assessments.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Indicator Ed2.B: Average mathematics scale scores for students in grade 12 by race and Hispanic origin,102 2005 and 2009
Average mathematics scale scores for students in grade 12 by race and Hispanic origin, 2005 and 2009

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

  • At grades 4 and 8, the average NAEP mathematics score in 2011 was higher than the scores in all previous assessment years, including 1 point higher than the scores in 2009.
  • The framework for the 12th-grade mathematics assessment was revised in 2005; as a result, the 2005 and 2009 results cannot be compared with those from previous years.101 At grade 12, the average mathematics score in 2009 was 3 points higher than in 2005 (153 versus 150, on a scale of 0–300).
  • As of 2011, separate data are available for Asian students and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students. At grades 4 and 8 in 2011 and grade 12 in 2009, Asian students had the highest mathematics scores, on average, and White students scored higher than their peers in the remaining racial and ethnic groups. Several other differences were found among students by race and Hispanic origin at each grade. For example, at grade 4, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students outscored their Black, non-Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic peers in mathematics. At grade 8, for instance, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaska Native students scored higher than Black, non-Hispanic students. At grade 12, American Indian or Alaska Native students scored higher than Hispanic students, who scored higher than Black students.

Indicator Ed2.C: Average reading scale scores for students in grades 4, 8, and 12, selected years 1992–2011
Average reading scale scores for students in grades 4, 8, and 12, selected years 1992–2011

NOTE: Data are available for 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011, although the 2000 assessment only included grade 4, and the 2003, 2007, and 2011 assessments only included grades 4 and 8. In the early years of the assessment, testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and limited-English proficient students were not permitted. In 1998, scores are provided for both the assessments with and without accommodations to show comparability across the assessments.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

  • The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was administered in 57 countries and other education systems at grade 4 and in 56 at grade 8 in 2011. The United States was among the top 15 education systems in mathematics at grade 4 and among the top 24 at grade 8.103
  • At grade 4, the average NAEP reading score in 2011 was 4 points higher than the score in 1992 but was unchanged from the average score in 2009. At grade 8, the average reading score in 2011 was 5 points higher than the score in 1992 and 1 point higher than the score in 2009. At grade 12, the average reading score in 2009 was 4 points lower than the score in 1992 but 2 points higher than the score in 2005.
  • At grades 4 and 8 in 2011, Asian students had the highest reading scores, on average, of all the racial and ethnic groups; White students also scored higher, on average, than their other peers. In addition, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 4th-graders scored higher, on average, than Black, non-Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic students. At grade 8, Black students had the lowest average reading scores of all the racial and ethnic groups. At grade 12 in 2009, the average reading scores of Asian or Pacific Islander, and White students were higher than those of their peers. In addition, on average, Black, non-Hispanic 12th-graders scored the lowest on the reading assessment.
  • At grades 4 and 8 in 2011 and grade 12 in 2009, females scored lower, on average, than males in mathematics but higher than males in reading.
  • The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) was carried out in 53 countries and other education systems at the 4th-grade level in 2011. At grade 4, the United States was among the top 13 education systems in reading.104

table icon ED2.A/B HTML Table, ED2.C HTML Table

101 Among other changes, the framework was revised by merging the measurement and geometry content areas into one and by adding additional questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability. For more details, see Grigg, W., Donahue, P., and Dion, G. (2007). The Nation's Report Card: 12th-grade reading and mathematics 2005 (NCES 2007-468). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

102 The 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used. Persons could select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Included in the total but not shown separately are respondents who selected two or more races. Data from 2005 and 2009 are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. For continuity with earlier race and ethnicity standards, respondents who reported being Asian or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander were combined. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

103 Provasnik, S., Kastberg, D., Ferraro, D., Lemanski, N., Roey, S., and Jenkins, F. (2012). Highlights From TIMSS 2011: Mathematics and Science Achievement of U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students in an International Context (NCES 2013-009). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. The 57 education systems that administered TIMSS at grade 4 overlap only partially with the set of 56 education systems that administered it at grade 8 (see table 1 in the report for details). The total number of education systems reported here differs from the total number reported in the international TIMSS reports (Mullis et al. 2012; Martin et al. 2012) because some education systems administered the TIMSS grade 4 assessment to 6th-grade students, and some administered the TIMSS grade 8 assessment to 9th-grade students. Education systems that did not assess students at the target grade level are not counted or included in this report.

104 Thompson, S., Provasnik, S., Kastberg, D., Ferraro, D., Lemanski, N., Roey, S., and Jenkins, F. (2012). Highlights From PIRLS 2011: Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context (NCES 2013-010). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. For the purposes of this report "countries" are complete, independent political entities, whereas "other education systems" represent a portion of a country, nation, kingdom, or emirate or are other non-national entities (e.g., U.S. states, Canadian provinces, and Northern Ireland). The total number of education systems reported here differs from the total number reported in the international PIRLS reports (Mullis et al. 2012; Martin et al. forthcoming) because four education systems administered the PIRLS grade 4 assessment only to 5th- and 6th-grade students. Education systems that did not assess students at the target grade level are not counted or included in this report.