NAEP Scores for 17-Year-Olds Flat Since 1970s

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 28, 2009 1 min read
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The long-term trend data for the National Assessment of Educational Progress was released today and the news is not good for students in high school. Average scores have remained flat for 17-year-olds both in reading and math since the early 1970s, when the assessments were first given. The scores for 17-year-olds in reading, however, did increase by three points, to 286, from 2004 to 2008, which is considered significant. But the same was not true for 17-year-olds in math. The scores remained stagnant for that age group in math during that same period.

Written statements are starting to flow into my e-mail inbox in response to the NAEP data.

Update: A statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan doesn’t mention the stagnant scores among 17-year-olds at all. Here’s what he says:

We’re pleased to see some recent progress among all age groups in reading and among younger age groups in math. We’re also pleased to see achievement gaps shrinking in reading, but we still have a lot more work to do. Our focus on raising standards, increasing academic rigor and improving teacher quality are all steps in the right direction.

Here’s an excerpt from a statement by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House and Education Labor Committee:

In light of the staggeringly high dropout rate and growing threats to our nation’s competitiveness, closing the achievement gap and building world-class schools for all students must be a top priority. Overall, this report is further proof that we must do better. While it’s good news that younger students are making meaningful gains in reading and math, it’s deeply troubling that many high school students are not.

A statement from Andrew J. Coulson, the director of the the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom, is more strongly worded. I post an excerpt here:

The latest NAEP results reveal a productivity collapse unparalleled in any other sector of the economy. At the end of high school, students perform no better today than they did nearly 40 years ago, and yet we spend more than twice as much per pupil in real, inflation-adjusted terms. I can’t think of any other service that has gotten worse during my lifetime.

Update: Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner for the assessment division of the National Center for Education Statistics, is answering questions about the long-term trend results today at a “statchat.” The chat starts at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Questions can be submitted beforehand.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.