Nationwide Reading And Math Abilities

12th grade students’ reading/math scores increased slightly, since their record lows in 2005, according to federal results released November 18th, cited by an article in The New York Times.

            These reading and math tests comprise the National Assessment of Education Progress test. The Department of Education administered this test to what it determined to be a representative sample of about 50,000 12th grade students nationwide in the spring of 2009.   

            The Department of Education stated that the average 12th grade student scored 288 on the reading assessment portion – on a 500-point scale – marking a slight increase from the average 2005 score of 286. Roughly 38% of 12th grade students scored at or above the test’s proficiency level.

            “If we go back almost 20 years and compare today’s national reading results, these scores are not quite what they should be,” said Steven Paine, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board.

            Paine noted that these increases represent mild short-term improvements but long-term decreases. The average test score dropped four points from 292 in 1992 to 288 in 2009.

            Naturally, students who said they read a lot scored much higher on the reading assessment test than students who said they read little. Students who said they read 20 or more pages every day for school scored 25 points higher than those who reported only reading five or fewer pages a day.

            For the math assessment test, average 12th graders’ scores increased from 150 in 2005 to 153 this year. The math assessment is scored on a 300-point scale. Twenty-six percent of 12th graders scored at or above the proficiency level in 2009.  These scores cannot be compared to any test scores before 2005 because the governing board changed the test that year.

            However, in comparison, the 2006-administered national assessment of economics test showed that 42 percent of 12th graders were proficient. On the most recent science and history assessments 18 and 13 percent, respectively, of 12th graders scored proficient.

            Educators and school policy makers closely examine the assessment test scores, looking for slight nuances of improvements. However, officials have not yet determined if these improvements are significant. Significance depends on the test’s margin for error, which increases as the number of test takers decreases.

            Test administers noted that it is a big challenge within itself simply to persuade high school students to take the test seriously, performing to the best of their abilities. Students are not scored individually; so there is no incentive to perform well and no consequences of performing poorly.