U.S. Students Make Modest Gains In Math And Reading

American student made modest gains in math and reading, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.
by , | November 2, 2011

American students have improved slightly in math and reading since 2009, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

In grades 4 and 8, the nation's students scored on average one point higher on the math assessment tests in 2011 than they did in 2009. Going back to 1990, math scores in both grades have increased by more than 20 percent, according to the data.

In reading, the average fourth-grade reading scores were unchanged in 2011 from 2009, but eighth-grade scores increased by one point on average. Compared with 1992, scores in both grades were slightly higher: four points in fourth grade and five points in eighth.

Three states -- Hawaii, New Mexico and Rhode Island -- and the District of Columbia made math gains in both grades. New York was the only state to experience a statistically significant decrease in fourth grade, while Missouri was the only state to do so in eighth.

Two states -- Hawaii and Maryland -- improved in reading in both grades. No state saw a significant decline in reading scores for either grade.

White, African-American and Hispanic students all gained slightly in both grades and both subjects, the data shows. A three-point gain by grade 8 Hispanic students in both math and reading and three-point improvement in reading by grade 8 African-American students were the most significant changes.

However, an achievement gap persisted, as white students scored at least 20 points higher than their African-American and Hispanic peers in both grades and both subjects.

Students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, generally used as a barometer for those in low-income families, also made minor gains in both subjects and grades.

"The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism... it's clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation's children to compete in the knowledge economy," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in response to the report. "Enhancing education for all is the key to our nation's economic prosperity. It is time for America to renew the promise of providing all children a world-class education."

The assessment tests are administered periodically by the National Assessment Governing Board, which is appointed by the Education Secretary but independent from the Education Department. At the state level, state coordinators ensure the schools selected for testing form a statistically sound sample.

The 2011 math tests were administered to 209,000 fourth-grade students in 8,500 schools and 175,200 eighth-grade students from 7,610 schools. Students were asked questions designed to gauge their knowledge in measurement, geometry, data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra.

The reading tests were administered 213,100 fourth-grade students from 8,500 schools and 168,200 students in 7,590 schools. Students were asked to read grade-appropriate material and answer questions that assessed their reading comprehension of literary and informational texts.

The national margin of error was 0.2 points.

Select your state below to view average scores for 2007, 2009 and 2011:

Source:U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress


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