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Long-Term Trend of U.S. Student Assessment Shows Increase in Reading and Math Achievement


WASHINGTON, July 14 -- Reading and mathematics scores have improved for many student groups, according to results released today by the U.S. Department of Education.

These results are based on the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessment and are presented in a new report, NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress. The National Center for Educational Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, conducted the study.

Results were especially strong for nine-year olds who scored higher on average in 2004 than in any other previous assessment year.

Thirteen-year-old students scored higher in mathematics than in any previous assessment year. While performance of 17-year- olds in those subjects remained statistically unchanged, Black and Hispanic student groups made progress.

Many of the differences in achievement between Black or Hispanic students and their White counterparts have narrowed, as gains on the average for minority student groups are greater than those for White students.

Darvin Winick, Chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board -- the independent board that sets policy and approves content for NAEP assessments -- said, “These results are encouraging, especially for nine-year-olds who improved across all groups. The fears that stronger students are faring less well because of too much emphasis on essential academic skills are not supported by the data.”

“We know that minority students have not always performed as well on these assessments,” Winick said. “While the differences are still too large, we are happy to see that there has been some narrowing.”

Key findings include:


-- Average reading and mathematics scores in 2004 were higher than in any previous assessment year.

-- White, Black, and Hispanic students’ scores were all higher in both subjects than in the first and most recent prior assessment years. Much of the gains have been seen since the last assessment in 1999 with the scores of those racial/ethnic groups increasing by 9, 13, and 17 points respectively in mathematics.


-- The average mathematics score was higher in 2004 than in any previous assessment year.

-- Overall reading trends for 13-year-olds have remained relatively flat for two decades, but the average score in 2004 was higher than in 1971.


-- The White-Black and White-Hispanic score gaps in reading and mathematics for 17-year-olds were smaller in 2004 than in the first assessment years.

-- Overall reading and mathematics average scores for 17-year- olds have remained relatively flat over the past 30 years. There have been no statistically significant changes overall or for most of the student groups since 1999.

Student Demographics

-- Over the 30-plus year trend of the long-term assessment, the Hispanic student population has tripled. For example, five percent of the 9-year-olds assessed in Mathematics in 1978 were Hispanic; by 2004, that number had increased to 18 percent.

In 2004, a representative sample of approximately 14,000 students in public and private schools at ages 9, 13 and 17 participated in each subject of the long-term trend assessment. The report presents the findings from that assessment, providing a look at the performance of America’s students over a period of 33 years, beginning in 1971 for reading and 1973 for mathematics.

NAEP includes two components: the long-term trend assessment and the main assessments. The long-term trend assessment remains substantially unchanged each time a subject is assessed, allowing students’ progress in a subject to be measured over a long period of time. The main NAEP assessments are adjusted to reflect contemporary changes in education policies, methods, and institutions. State and national results from the 2005 main NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics will be released later this year. Because the two types of assessments use different questions and samples, their respective results cannot be directly compared.

The new report, NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress, is available at


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