Statement and Analysis From The Education Trust on the 2013 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Results

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Publication date: 
November 7 2013

WASHINGTON (November 7, 2013) — Performance for the nation’s fourth and eighth-grade students in reading and mathematics has inched up since 2011, according to data released today from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

This continues a decade-long trend of improvement, and today, performance for most groups of students is as high as it has ever been. This progress for students as a whole is coupled with some meaningful gap-closing. In eighth grade, for example, the gap separating Latino students from their white peers in math has narrowed by six points since 2003. For reading, it’s narrowed by seven points.

But today’s results also make clear just how much work we have to do as a country. Overall, only about 1 in 3 students is proficient in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading or eighth-grade math. About 4 in 10 are proficient in fourth-grade math. And among some groups of students, the numbers are far worse. About 1 in 5 African American, Latino, and Native American students are proficient in fourth and eighth-grade reading. Just a quarter of low-income fourth-graders are proficient in math.

“While we have seen some gap-closing over the past decade, nationally the gaps are not closing fast enough, and the impact is devastating to our nation’s most vulnerable students. We must — and can — do better for students of color and low-income students,” said Daria Hall, director of K-12 policy development at The Education Trust.

Of course, underneath the national averages there are significant differences among states. In the most recent two-year cycle, several jurisdictions stand out for improving student results:

  • Since 2011, Tennessee has made big gains across subjects and grades. The state’s African American students, for example, gained four points in eighth-grade math and 10 points in eighth-grade reading. This progress in reading was enough to bring Tennessee’s historically low-performing African American students to the national average for that group in 2013, and to close the black/white gap by five points.
  • The District of Columbia also made big gains in the past two years, gaining seven points in fourth-grade math and six points in eighth-grade reading. But while all groups in D.C. have gained, progress for affluent students has far outpaced other groups, leading to significant gap-widening.
  • West Virginia led the nation in gains for low-income fourth-graders in both reading and math.
  • Since 2011, California saw gains of seven points for students overall, low-income students, and Latino students in eighth-grade reading.

“These improvements are welcome news and testimony to the hard work of educators in these jurisdictions. As Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina used to say, ‘If you are number one in improvement long enough, you will eventually be number one in achievement.’ That said, educators need to be attentive to who is growing and who is not," said Kati Haycock, president of Ed Trust. "Where gaps are widening, as in the District of Columbia, no one can afford to celebrate for too long.”

The new data mark the 10th year where all states have participated in NAEP. Since 2003, some states are showing what’s possible in terms of performance, improvement, and gap-narrowing:

  • Maryland ranks among the top states in performance in 2013 and improvement since 2003, overall and for student groups, especially in fourth and eighth-grade reading.
  • Florida also ranks among the top in performance in fourth-grade reading and improvement in fourth and eighth-grade reading. In fact, as a result of gains over the decade, Latino fourth-graders in these two states now read at about the same levels as white students in Michigan and South Carolina.
  • New Jersey is among the top gainers in eighth grade and among the top-performing states for students overall as well as low-income, African American, and Latino students in eighth-grade reading and math.
  • Pennsylvania showed double-digit gains for low-income students in fourth and eighth-grade reading since 2003.
  • American Indian students in Wyoming and Oklahoma also showed double-digit gains in fourth-grade reading and math, far outpacing national gains for Native students.
  • In Illinois, gaps between groups have narrowed in fourth-grade math, fourth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math.

But the data also show that lots of work remains:

  • In Washington, the black/white, Latino/white, and low-income/higher income gaps have widened between 2003 and 2013 in all four subjects and grades.
  • Wisconsin, Ohio, and Colorado — among others — showed declines in reading for African American fourth-graders. Wisconsin’s Latino fourth-graders also lost ground since 2003.
  • Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are near the bottom for students overall, low-income students, and African American students in fourth and eighth-grade math and eighth-grade reading.
  • Michigan is near the bottom for African American students in fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade math. The state is also near the bottom for low-income students in fourth and eighth-grade math.
  • California is near the bottom for students overall, low-income, and Latino students in fourth-grade reading and math.

For more state-by-state data on performance, improvement, and gaps, see the attached tables.

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Grade_4_Math_for_web.pdf68.35 KB
Grade_4_Read_for_web.pdf63.66 KB
Grade_8_Math_for_web.pdf63.48 KB
Grade_8_Read_for_web.pdf72.83 KB