U.S. Math Scores Decline From 2013;
Nation’s Reading Scores Mixed
Some States and Urban Districts Show Improvement
in 2015 NAEP Math and Reading
WASHINGTON — Since 2013, national average mathematics scores have decreased for fourth-and eighth-grade students, while reading scores have held steady for fourth-graders and have gone down for eighth-graders, according to The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and Reading. Overall scores in both subjects at both grades are higher than they were in the 1990s when the assessments were first administered. However, the percentage of students scoring at or above the Proficient level — indicating a solid grasp of the subject matter — has declined since 2013 in fourth-and eighth-grade mathematics and in eighth-grade reading. The percentage of fourth-graders scoring at or above Proficient in reading did not change from 2013.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, provides results for the nation, states/jurisdictions and selected urban districts. Fourth-grade students in three states/jurisdictions improved in math, and fourth-grade students in 13 states/jurisdictions improved in reading. No state saw improvements for both grades in reading and in mathematics.
Of the 21 large urban districts that volunteered to participate in NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in 2015, six saw improved scores from 2013 for at least one grade and one subject; one urban district, Duval County, Florida, participated for the first time in 2015, so its scores could not be compared to previous assessments. Mathematics scores increased in four urban districts and decreased in 10 urban districts in at least one grade. Reading scores increased in five urban districts and decreased in three urban districts in at least one grade.
“While the downturn in reading and math scores nationally and among states is concerning, especially in math, we are encouraged by the progress made by some of the participating urban districts,” said Terry Mazany, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP. “Our nation’s schools and school districts are experiencing a lot of change and NAEP gives us an independent and objective long-term measure of student achievement and lets us know where we stand today compared to past performance.”
Highlights for student performance in each subject appear below:
|State Highlights in Mathematics||Urban District Highlights in Mathematics|
|State Highlights in Reading||Urban District Highlights in Reading|
Mathematics – This assessment addressed five mathematical content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra. Fourth-grade students with scores in the Proficient range could likely divide a three-digit whole number by a one-digit whole number. Eighth-graders scoring in the Proficient range could likely translate a verbal statement into an equation.
“Many states and urban districts have made huge changes in mathematics instruction and curricula these past two years,” said Governing Board Vice Chair Lucille E. Davy, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education. “While some scores went down in 2015, others went up, so it will be important to watch how the data shift over the next couple of years to understand if this year’s scores are part of a greater trend.”
Reading – This assessment includes two types of texts: literary and informational. The questions measure students’ ability to locate and recall, integrate and interpret, and critique and evaluate. Fourth-grade students with scores in the Proficient range could likely explain the importance of character to story action using an example as support. Eighth-graders scoring in the Proficient range could likely evaluate information in an expository passage to form and support an opinion.
“The Nation’s Report Card’s distinctive, apples-to-apples comparison data are critical for urban school leaders to meaningfully address what’s not working and to confidently build on what is,” said Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, which has participated in TUDA since 2003. “For Cleveland, the results affirm how implementation of the Common Core curriculum and changes in the way we use time, talent and resources in our schools are key contributors to gains in student achievement.”
The assessment also includes questions about students’ home and school experiences, and responses, which provide additional context for (but not causal relationships to) performance. For example, fourth-graders who responded that they “often” like what is done in math class had an average score of 246, while those who responded “never or hardly ever” had an average score of 232. The average score of fourth-graders who said they talk with friends about what they read “once or twice a week” was 231; those who responded “never or hardly ever” had an average score of 220.
NAEP reports performance using average scores and percentages of students performing at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. The Basic level denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for grade-appropriate work; Proficient denotes solid academic performance; and Advanced represents superior work. The National Center for Education Statistics administered the assessments to samples of more than 130,000 students in each grade for which results were reported.
The results are segmented by student group according to income level, eligibility for the National School Lunch Program; gender; disability status; and racial/ethnic background. Compared with 2013, reading scores in 2015 went up among fourth-grade students with disabilities and fourth-graders eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Segmenting the results by student group also allows for comparisons between groups.
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The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States. It has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through the Nation's Report Card, NAEP informs the public about what American students know and can do in various subject areas and compares achievement between states, large urban districts, and various student demographic groups.
The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to oversee and set policy for NAEP.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally authorized project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Center for Education Statistics, within the Institute of Education Sciences, administers NAEP. The Commissioner of Education Statistics is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project.