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The Nation’s Report Card: No gains made in reading and math scores

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a charter school in Wilmington, April 9, 2014. Duncan stresses the nation must close the education achievement gap between white and minority students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a charter school in Wilmington, April 9, 2014. Duncan stresses the nation must close the education achievement gap between white and minority students.
U.S. Department of Education/flickr

Math and Reading scores for grade 12 students in the nation have stagnated according to results of the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released yesterday. Of the 47,500 students that participated in the 2013 national math assessment, only 26 percent scored at or above the “proficient” level. This is unchanged from the 2009 test. The percent of 12-grade students at or above proficiency in reading also remained at the 2009 level of 38 percent. The reading scores show a decline from 1992 when 40 percent of students achieved at or above the proficient level.

Achievement gaps between white students and their black, Hispanic and Native counterparts persist. In a May 7 press statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan expresses concern over this gap. Duncan notes that Education Department projections show that next fall the majority of students in public schools will be from one of these minority groups. The test scores also show gender gaps, with girls out performing boys in reading and boys outperforming girls in math.

“We project that our nation's public schools will become majority-minority this fall—making it even more urgent to put renewed attention into the academic rigor and equity of course offerings and into efforts to redesign high schools.” — Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Students were asked about their coursework in mathematics. Among students that performed higher on the math assessment, 34 percent report their highest level of math as pre-calculus; 50 percent of higher performing students named calculus has their highest-level math course. Students were also asked how often they discussed interpretations of their reading in class. Students that reported daily, or almost daily, reading discussions had higher reading scores than those who discussed their reading less often.

The NAEP project is run by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Launched in 1969, the program attempts to measure educational progress in the nation by periodically administering uniform tests to a diverse sampling of American students. Test results are reported in The Nation’s Report Card. Because the same tests are used nationwide, the results are useful in making state-to-state comparisons.