Nation's Report Card: Only a Third of 8th Graders Can Read, Compute At Grade Level

Barbara Hollingsworth | November 7, 2013 | 1:04pm EST
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ype="node" title="NAEP logo – Despite small gains in test scores over the past two years, only a third of 8th graders enrolled in the nation’s public schools can read and do math at grade level, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released Thursday. (See NAEP.pdf)

NAEP reading and math tests, commonly known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” are administered to 4th and 8th graders across the U.S. every two years.

The average reading scores of 8th graders increased three points in 2013 compared to 2011, with 32 percent now considered proficient and 4 percent advanced on NAEP’s 500-point scale. However, that leaves 64 percent of students who will be heading to high school next year still not reading at grade level.

Overall 8th grade scores also inched up one point in math this year, with 27 percent now testing proficient and 9 percent considered advanced. However, 64 percent of all 8th graders who took the test are also below grade level in math as well.

Fourth graders made even less progress, gaining just one point in math, with 34 percent testing proficient and 8 percent testing advanced. However, there were no statistically significant gains in reading since the last NAEP test in 2011, and more than half of 4th graders (58 percent) still cannot read at grade level.

Only three jurisdictions – Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and the Defense Department, which runs schools for the children of military personnel – posted gains in both reading and math for both 4th and 8th graders, while some states such as Massachusetts – where 4th grade reading scores decreased four points– actually lost ground, according to Education Week.

“It’s a disgrace and truly incomprehensible that after decades of mediocrity, we celebrate the fact that only 34 percent of our nation’s 8th graders can read at grade level and only 34 percent are proficient in math,” Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform, said in a statement.

“It’s rare to find a policy issue that 86 percent of the country agrees with, but in education, accountability does just that,” Kerwin added. “Today's release of the 2013 NAEP results proves our lawmakers are just not listening.”

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