NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

NAEP Reading Scores Lag Progress In Math

August 25, 2000

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that math scores for students ages 9, 13 and 17 have climbed steadily in the past three decades, but reading skills have generally not improved in the past 30 years.

Also, a significant achievement gap remains between white students and minorities. The gap had been narrowing during the 1980s. But it widened from 1990 through 1999.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Average scores for 17-year-old black students in reading and math are about the same as averages for 13-year-old white students.
  • The study notes gains in reading by 13-year-olds over the past 30 years -- but 17-year-olds registered no improvement.
  • In reading, girls had higher scores than boys -- a gap that has narrowed for younger students but has been fairly consistent for teens over the last 30 years.

Science scores for 17-year-olds were lower in 1999 than they were when the first test was administered in 1969.

Sources: Tamara Henry, "Reading Doesn't Match Math Gains," USA Today, August 25, 2000; and Kate Zernike, "Gap Widens Again on Tests Given to Blacks and Whites," New York Times, August 25, 2000.

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