NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stagnant Reading Scores

April 9, 2001

Despite years of funding new reading programs, average reading scores for U.S. fourth-graders haven't risen at all in eight years, according to results of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Moreover, scores among the worst readers have dropped significantly.

  • On average, fourth-graders scored 217 points out of 500 on the reading test -- up three points from 1994, but the same as in 1998 and 1992.
  • Some 37 percent of children scored at the "below-basic" level -- which educators say means they can't read.
  • Some 63 percent of black fourth-graders scored below basic, as did 58 percent of Hispanics -- which hasn't change much in eight years.
  • The gap between the best performers and worst performers also grew within each racial and ethnic group.

That means, for example, that the best performing black children scored 99 points better than the worst performing blacks -- compared with an 86 point difference eight years earlier.

The assessment showed that more than two-thirds of the 8,000 fourth-graders tested nationally can't read proficiently. That continues an eight-year trend, according to the National Education Goals Panel.

Sources: WSJ reporter, "Reading Scores for U.S. Fourth-Graders Haven't Climbed at All in Eight Years," Wall Street Journal; and Associated Press, "Gap Grows Between Best, Worst Students," Washington Times; both on April 9, 2001.

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