NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Making the Grade in Math

November 14, 2003

Despite a decade of emphasis on basic reading skills, U.S. students aren't reading much better than they did in 1992, results from a prominent national test show. But students made significant gains in math, which suggests that changes in how math is taught are taking hold.

According to the results of the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released Thursday:

  • The percentage of fourth-graders reading at a ''proficient'' level or better barely rose in 11 years, from 29 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.
  • For eighth-graders, it rose from 29 percent to 32 percent.
  • The scores include both public and private schools; national averages drop to 30 percent for both grades when just public schools are counted.
  • The percentage of fourth-graders proficient or better in math rose considerably, from 18 percent to 32 percent.
  • The percentage of eighth-graders scoring proficient or better also rose, from 21 percent to 29 percent.
  • That drops to 27 percent when only public schools are counted. Fourth-graders remain about the same.

NAEP defines "proficient" as "solid academic performance" and "competency over challenging subject matter." Education Secretary Rod Paige attributes the improvement to the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

Source: Greg Toppo, "Tests find reading scores flat, but math improved," USA Today, November 14, 2003.

For NAEP results


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