National math and reading scores rise

In fact, the average 2008 math scores for 9- and 13-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are higher than they have been since 1973, according to data released in The Nation’s Report Card.

The average reading scores of 9-year-old black, white and Latino students across the United States also reached a new high. The reading scores for the other two age groups tested — 13 and 17 — have improved since 2004.

You can find more results here.

I didn’t find 2008 state breakdowns, but you can get a sense of how California measures up to the rest of the United States with these color-coded maps that reflect 2007 reading and math scores. (Hint: Look at the red bars.)

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Katy Murphy

    There are oh so many ways to interpret test data. I just got this news release, titled “NAEP Results Produce more Evidence of NCLB’s Failure,” from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.


    Despite billions of dollars spent on a test-and-punish approach to school “reform,” today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report provides more evidence that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) is a failure. With few exceptions, across three age groups and two subjects, the rate of improvement slowed compared with the previous period while gaps between blacks and white as well as Hispanics and whites ranged from widening to unchanging to slightly closing.

    “NCLB is demonstrably unable to produce sustained and significant improvements even on a standardized test in the two subjects on which it focuses, reading and math. It also fails to make a real dent in the wide gaps between whites, African Americans and Latinos,” said Monty Neill, Ed.D., FairTest’s Deputy Director. “It is time to completely overhaul this educationally destructive law. The Forum on Educational Accountability has produced a blueprint to rewrite the law to focus on improving schools not just inflating state test scores.” Neill chairs the Forum, whose Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB is endorsed by 150 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, labor and civic groups.

    Since NCLB, state test scores have typically increased, but NAEP results have failed to show similar increases. “This is a clear sign that schools are pressured to narrow curriculum and teach to the state tests. That inflates state test scores but the inflated scores don’t mean real learning has improved,” explained FairTest’s Lisa Guisbond. “NCLB has proven to be counter-productive. The Obama administration and the Congress must take the necessary steps to craft helpful, not harmful, federal legislation.”

    Numerous research reports have shown NCLB has led to narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, organizational chaos, educator resentment, and other educational damage. Public opinion surveys have shown increasing public dislike of the law and strong opposition to the law’s emphases on testing and sanctions.

  • Katy Murphy

    Exhibit B, a statement from the AFT on the test score release:

    Math and reading scores continue to rise slowly but steadily, according to results released today by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in “The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008.” Scores for various age groups and racial/ethnic groups generally are on the rise as well, though scores for African-American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students remain below the overall average.

    WASHINGTON — We applaud America’s educators, parents and students for the impressive results found in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend results released today.

    The results describe a continuing rise in student achievement. Compared with the results from when these reading and math tests were first given nearly four decades ago, the 2008 results show statistically significant increases for 9- and 13-year-olds overall, and for African-Americans, Hispanics and whites among 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds. Through 2008, African-American and Hispanic students in all age groups had greater gains than white students in both math and reading, and these findings too are statistically significant.

    Despite substantial long-term progress in closing achievement gaps, especially in math, stubborn gaps remain for poor and minority students. We have an economic and moral obligation to improve education and social supports dramatically for these students. To do so, we need strong core standards for what students should learn, and a comprehensive education system that includes guides for teachers, model lesson plans, pre-service teacher education, in-service professional development, conditions and materials that are conducive to teaching and learning, and appropriate textbooks—all based on common standards.

    We also need to recognize that schools can do only so much to offset the effects of poverty. We must address out-of-school factors such as access to early childhood education, after-school programs and healthcare as part of any serious effort to provide equal educational opportunities for all children.

  • Diane Ravitch

    Scores are up on NAEP since the 1970s, but not much in the past five years!


  • http://www.fairtest.org Monty Neill

    Thanks for posting our release. We summed up the data from the long-term trend to back up our claims, and that is at the end of the release, which is on our website at http://www.fairtest.org/naep-results-produce-more-evidence-nclbs-failure.

    I’d add that previous NAEP results have demonstrated slowing progress since the beginning of NLCB, both in overall score gains and in closing most gaps (some of which have widened). BTW, the long-term trend report does not include state-level data, only national data.

  • Katy Murphy
  • Nextset

    It’s amusing to read these constant stories of “educators” striving to eliminate the Gap. The expect everyone to fall in line behing the canard that the gap is caused by poverty. It’s not. Look at the gap between poor whites and rich blacks. Or rich whites and poor asians.

    Repeat after me. The emperor has no clothes.

    Refusal to deal with, or discuss reality because reality isn’t what you want it to be is not a hallmark of a successful educator.

  • Pepe

    It is actually widely known that the gap exists regardless of SES. Any educator who stays current knows that poverty is not the cause. That is why “educators” spend so much time talking about it–it appears to be something within their sphere of influence. If race can be used to predict outcomes, then there is something that is wrong with the system. I don’t think educators are refusing to deal with reality–I think for the first time they are starting to meet it head on, and I am encouraged by this.

    I think the biggest issue that the conflicting reports about the NAEP bring up is the fact that the outcomes are debatable. Obviously if such discrepancy exists, then significant progress has not been made. I blame a tendency of districts to rush into choosing band-aids that are not research based and that do not truly address the issues. In addition, our country has refused to work on the biggest factor within our sphere of influence and a fairly accurate predictor of students success: quality of teaching. Better teachers need to be recruited and training of teachers needs to be drastically improved.

    It is obvious that NCLB is not working to the extent that its backers had hoped. Some are able to argue that it has had a negative effect on student achievement. Time for a different system of accountability.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset: Strawman argument as usual. Nobody believes race/ethnicity is not a major factor, which just disagree on the causes and solutions.

    Pepe: You can’t recruit and train significantly more/better teachers until you make the pay and/or working conditions better.

    Hell, the system is already pushing out an average of 10% of it’s successful and promising teachers every year, more in districts like this one.

    If the system can’t find a way to keep, train and support a Harvard grad willing to work 70 hours a week, what business do you have demanding more fodder?

  • cranky teacher

    which= “we just”

  • John

    “Refusal to deal with, or discuss reality because reality isn’t what you want it to be is not a hallmark of a successful educator.”

    It’s the hallmark of a successful politician.

  • Pepe

    Cranky Teacher, my point exactly.