The Nation's Report Card: 12th-Grade Reading and Mathematics 2005

National Center for Education Statistics
February 2007

The Nation's Report Card: America's High School Graduates--Results from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study
National Center for Education Statistics
February 2007

The big news about these two studies is already out (See here and here). High school students are taking what on paper look like more-rigorous courses and are getting better grades, yet they're doing no better on the 2005 NAEP Reading assessment than 15 years ago. And their math scores aren't so hot, either (changes to the '05 NAEP Math assessment don't permit ready comparisons with previous assessments). What to do about this disconnect will be the topic of considerable debate for years to come. But there's more to these reports than what was blasted across newspaper headlines. Consider, for example:

  • The news that black students scored significantly lower in 2005 in reading than in 1992 would, unfortunately, shock no one. But did you know that white students also performed worse? (Other racial/ethnic groups did not register a statistically significantly change.)
  • Among assessment-takers who report neither parent finishing high school, just 17 percent scored at or above proficient in reading. Of those who report at least one parent graduating college, 47 percent scored at or above proficient. That gap is bad enough, but more surprising is that 53 percent of students with at least one college-educated parent aren't reaching the proficient level.

The accompanying transcript survey offers even more tantalizing tid-bits:

  • NCES defined three curriculum levels for this study: Standard, Mid-level, and Rigorous. Since 1990, the gap between the percentages of white and black students taking Mid-level curricula has shrunk dramatically. Today, in fact, there's no gap. (So what accounts for the achievement gap?)
  • Though we rightly worry about shrinkage of the core curriculum, students are taking more courses in foreign languages, fine arts, and computer-related studies.
  • While there is some question about how rigorous "advanced" courses truly are, there is no doubt that students who take them do significantly better on NAEP.
  • Girls get better grades than boys (we're talking overall GPA) yet males still score better on NAEP math and science assessments.

In short, these two reports are packed with important data. Read the headlines, but then take the time to dig through them yourself. Find them here and here.

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