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About the 2017 NAEP Results

In grade 4 reading, 37 percent of students scored at or above proficient. Eighth grade reading was the only subject-area/grade combination to show improvement. Thirty six percent of students scored at or above proficient, up two percentage points from 2015. There were no significant changes in grade 4 or grade 8 mathematics. Forty percent of 4th-graders and 34 percent of 8th-graders scored at or above proficient. These results aren’t very different from 2015 or 2011 except for 8th grade.

The same general trend holds true for race- and ethnicity-based achievement gaps: while scores for black and Hispanic 4th- and 8th-grade students have improved since the 1990s, far too few are proficient in math and reading.

As sobering as these data are, long term trends for high-schoolers are even more disappointing. 12th graders did not take the most recent NAEP, but they have remained relatively stagnant over time. Even worse, when 12th grade NAEP scores were last released in 2015, only 25% of students scored at or above proficient in math. That number was only slightly better in reading, with 37% of 12th graders scoring at or above proficient.

This begs the question: what is going on in U.S. high schools? Are they providing additional learning and skills, or are they erasing the painstakingly slow progress that elementary and middle schools are making?

With these disappointments come a few bright spots. NAEP can tell us how students in different geographies perform. Places like Massachusetts, Indiana, Washington, D.C., and Arizona have made impressive gains in recent years. Florida made historic gains in 2017. So did 6 out of the 27 urban districts for which NAEP provides disaggregated data. One of those districts is Miami.

Localities that have seen stagnant or declining scores (and there are many) can learn from these states and large districts. It is likely no coincidence that most of the places that have seen the greatest gains on NAEP are also the places that have done the most to empower parents with opportunity-based reforms like charter schools and vouchers.

Back to A Nation Still At Risk? Results From The Latest NAEP Recall The Report From 35 Years Ago