NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress

Bobby Rampey, Gloria Dion, and Patricia Donahue
National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences
April 2009

As is typical of the Nation's Report Card, the latest results from the long-term trends (LTT) assessment are a mixed bag. Recall that LTT is not the same as the main NAEP assessment. It measures basically the same knowledge and skills as when first administered in the early 1970s, meaning we can observe changes in student performance over time, while the main NAEP assessment responds more readily to curricular fashions. (Read more about the difference here.) This iteration presents data from 2007-08, comparing them, in particular, to the 2004 administration, as well as over the longer term. Key findings include: average reading scores for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds are up in reading since 2004, but average math scores are up only for 9- and 13-year-olds. In fact, math scores for 17-year-olds have not budged in 35 years. Still, we need to keep in mind shifting demographics. The country has seen an influx of Hispanic students who generally score well below their white peers. So even though all racial subgroups have made gains over the long term, the national average remains flat. However, achievement gaps appear to be widening in recent years; white 9-year-olds improved their math achievement since 2004, while other groups stagnated. Bottom line, LTT and the main NAEP assessment agree: we continue to do better in reading than math overall. There's been plenty of press as to whether these results should be a feather in NCLB's weathered hat (as former Secretary Spellings argues) or another damning indictment. The real question is whether we can really correlate 2008's LTT with NCLB in the first place. You can find the report here.

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