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2013 Math and Reading, 12th Grade

Nation’s 12th Graders’ Math and Reading Scores Stagnant Since 2009

Mathematics scores have increased since 2005; 
reading scores have declined since 1992

WASHINGTON — The performance of America’s 12th-grade students in mathematics and reading has not changed since 2009, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. Compared with the results from the base year of the assessment for each subject, scores for mathematics in 2013 were higher than in 2005, and for reading, lower than in 1992. However, since 1994, overall reading scores have remained essentially flat. Findings are provided at the national level and for 13 states that volunteered to participate.

Results from The Nation’s Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12 provide comparisons over time for students overall and for student groups based on selected demographics, such as race/ethnicity and gender. Among the reported student groups, the only change from 2009 to 2013 was seen among English language learners (ELL), whose mathematics scores were lower in 2013 than in 2009.

"Stagnation is unacceptable. Today’s 12th graders are performing no differently in mathematics and reading in 2013 than they did in 2009," said David P. Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. "Achievement at this very critical point in a student’s life must be improved to ensure success after high school."

Results for this assessment are based on nationally representative samples of 12th-grade students. More than 92,000 students were assessed in either mathematics or reading. In addition to average scale scores, performance is measured at three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. Basic denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for grade-appropriate work; Proficient denotes solid academic performance; and Advanced represents superior work.

Thirteen states volunteered to be a part of the 12th-grade state pilot program in 2013. Results for Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota and West Virginia are available for both 2009 and 2013. Tennessee and Michigan participated for the first time in 2013. All 13 states met or exceeded NAEP’s goal to include 95 percent of all students selected for the NAEP samples.


Twenty-six percent of students scored at or above Proficient in mathematics in 2013. This means that about three-quarters of America’s 12th graders have not achieved solid academic performance over challenging subject matter in mathematics.

Racial/ethnic score gaps in mathematics have not changed significantly since 2009. However, in 2013, compared with 2005, the score gap between Asian/Pacific Islander and white students widened by 5 points; and male students again scored 3 points higher than female students.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho and West Virginia posted higher average mathematics scores in 2013 than they did in 2009. Arkansas also narrowed the score gap between black and white students. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota had higher percentages of students reaching the Proficient level than did the nation.


Thirty-eight percent of students performed at or above Proficient in reading in 2013, which was lower than the 40 percent in 1992. At the same time, the proportion of students scoring below Basic increased from 20 percent in 1992 to 25 percent in 2013, remaining essentially flat from 1994.

The score gap between black and white students widened by 5 points from 1992 to 2013 (but was similar to the gap in 1994 and since), and no racial/ethnic gaps narrowed.

Seven states—Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota—had a higher percentage of students reaching Proficient in reading than did the nation as a whole in 2013. Arkansas and Connecticut had higher average reading scores in 2013 than they did in 2009. Connecticut also narrowed the score gap between black and white students between 2009 and 2013.

Learning Context

In addition to assessing students’ academic achievement, students participating in NAEP responded to questions about other experiences that may provide additional context for the results.

  • Average mathematics scores were highest for students who had taken calculus, and lowest for students who had not taken a mathematics course higher than algebra I.

  • Mathematics scores were higher for students who reported that mathematics was their favorite subject, believed mathematics would help them in the future or thought that their mathematics course was often engaging and interesting.

  • Students who strongly agreed that they learn a lot from books and find reading enjoyable had average reading scores at or above the Proficient level.

  • When asked if they discussed what they read, students who reported discussing their reading every day or almost every day had higher reading scores.

"Many factors inside and outside the classroom contribute to student performance, and it is incumbent upon everyone in the education community to find ways to foster academic improvement in the years to come," Chair Driscoll said.

For more information and to explore the data, visit the website at

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, is the largest continuing, nationally representative measure of what students know and can do in key subject areas.


Stephaan Harris