NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Students' Math Progress is Mixed

August 3, 2001

The math skills of U.S. high school seniors have declined over the past four years, but fourth- and eighth-graders have shown some modest progress. That is the profile drawn from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress -- also known as "the nation's report card."

None of the grades had large shares of students performing at grade level in 2000.

  • Only one-quarter of public school fourth-graders performed at or above grade level in 2000 -- but that is up from just 20 percent in 1996.
  • Twenty-six percent of eighth-graders performed at or above grade level last year -- up from 23 percent in 1996.
  • But only 17 percent of public and private school 12-graders were at or above grade level in math in 2000 -- versus 16 percent in 1996.
  • And only 65 percent of seniors reached the basic level, versus 69 percent in 1996; furthermore, the percent below basic increased from 31 percent to 35 percent.

The achievement gap between fourth-grade Latinos and whites doubled from 1996 to 2000 -- and more than doubled between black and white eighth-graders.

Students in Minnesota outperformed every other state. And those in Mississippi were nearly at the bottom, outperforming only students in Washington, D.C., public schools -- where a mere 6 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders were deemed proficient.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Report: Mixed Progress in Math," USA Today, August 3, 2001; based on "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2000," National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2, 2001.


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