ChildStats.gov—Forum on Child and Family Statistics
faces of children
Home  |  About the Forum  |  Publications  |  Help
Search
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Mathematics and Reading Achievement

Factors such as the extent of children's knowledge and children's ability to think, learn, and communicate affect the likelihood of their becoming productive adults and active citizens. Mathematics and reading achievement test scores measure students' skills in these subjects and can be good indicators of overall achievement in school. To assess progress in mathematics and reading, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures trends in the academic performance of students in Grades 4, 8, and 12. The most recent NAEP mathematics and reading assessments were conducted in 2019.

Indicator ED2.A: Average mathematics scale scores of 4th and 8th graders, selected years 1990–2019
Indicator ED2.A: Average mathematics scale scores of 4th and 8th graders, selected years 1990–2019

NOTE: Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessment are reported as a composite scale that combines the results of separately estimated scales for each content area: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics, and probability; and algebra. The scale ranges from 0 to 500 for Grades 4 and 8. Prior to 1996, testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students were not permitted. For 1996, scores are provided for both the assessment with and without accommodations to show comparability across the assessments.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Indicator ED2.B: Average mathematics scale scores of 12th graders by race and Hispanic origin, 2005, 2015, and 2019
Indicator ED2.B:  Average mathematics scale scores of 12th graders by race and Hispanic origin, 2005, 2015, and 2019

NOTE: NH = non-Hispanic origin; AIAN = American Indian or Alaska Native; and API = Asian or Pacific Islander. The scale ranges from 0 to 300.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

  • At both Grades 4 and 8, the average mathematics scores in 2019 were higher than in 1990. The Grade 4 2019 average mathematics score was higher than the 2017 average score, but the Grade 8 2019 average mathematics score was lower than the 2017 average score.
  • At Grade 12, the average mathematics score in 2019 was not measurably different from the score in 2015 or the score in 2005, the earliest year with comparable data.100
  • In 2019, at Grades 4 and 12, average mathematics scores were each 3 points higher for male students than for female students. At Grade 8, the average mathematics scores for male and female students were not measurably different.
  • In 2019, at each of Grades 4, 8, and 12, Asian, non-Hispanic students had the highest average mathematics scores. White, non-Hispanic students generally had the next highest average mathematics scores at each grade level in 2019. In general, Black, non-Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic students had lower average mathematics scores in 2019 than did students in other racial/ethnic groups.101










Indicator ED2.C: Average reading scale scores of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, selected years 1992–2019
Indicator ED2.C: Average reading scale scores of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, selected years 1992–2019

NOTE: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment scale is a composite combining separately estimated scales for each type of reading (literacy and informational) specified by the reading framework. The scale ranges from 0 to 500. The 2000 assessment included data for only Grade 4, and the 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2017 assessments included data for only Grades 4 and 8. In 1992, 1994, and 1998, testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students were not permitted. For 1998, scores are provided for both the assessment with and without accommodations to show comparability across the assessments.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.

  • Students whose parents had higher levels of educational attainment generally had higher average mathematics scores than students whose parents had lower levels of educational attainment. This pattern was apparent at each of Grades 8 and 12 in 2019.102
  • At Grades 4 and 8, the average reading scores in 2019 were lower than the scores in 2017 but higher than the scores in 1992. At Grade 12, the average reading score in 2019 was lower than the score in 2015 and also lower than the score in 1992.
  • Unlike the pattern observed on the NAEP mathematics assessment, at each of Grades 4, 8, and 12, average reading scores in 2019 were significantly higher for female students than for male students.
  • Similar to the NAEP mathematics assessment, at each of Grades 4, 8, and 12, Asian, non-Hispanic students had the highest average reading scores in 2019 followed by White, non-Hispanic students.
  • Parents' education followed the same pattern observed from the NAEP mathematics assessment. That is, students whose parents had higher levels of educational attainment generally had higher average reading scores than students whose parents had lower levels of educational attainment. This pattern was apparent at each of Grades 8 and 12 in 2019.102

table icon ED2A/B HTML Table | ED2C HTML Table

100 The framework for the 12th-grade mathematics assessment was revised in 2005; as a result, scores from 2005 and later cannot be compared with those from previous years. Among other changes, the framework was revised by merging the measurement and geometry content areas into one and by adding questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability. For more details, see Grigg, W., Donahue, P., & Dion, G. (2007). The Nation's Report Card: 12th-grade reading and mathematics 2005 (NCES 2007-468). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2007468

101 Included in the total but not discussed separately in this indicator are respondents who selected Two or more races. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

102 Parents' education is the highest educational attainment of either parent. Data on parents' level of education are not reliable for 4th graders.