Nation's Report Card

Math Scores Decline for Seniors, Reading Stays the Same

Seniors nationwide are slipping in math, but their scores in reading haven’t changed significantly in the last three years, according to statistics released today on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). However, over the long haul, the reading gap has been widening as well, when 2015 statistics are compared to data collected in 1992, the NAEP’s first reading assessment year.

In its latest edition of “The Nation’s Report Card,” the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal statistical agency which adminsters the NAEP, reported that the national average mathematics score in 2015 for 12th grade students was lower, compared to 2013. The average score dipped from 153 in 2013 to 152 in 2015, a statistically significant decline, said Laura Logerfo, assistant director for reporting and analysis for the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees NAEP.

“Is it a cause for concern? We’re not certain, but it is a cause for action,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We’ll see what happens in a couple of years.”

The report noted that math scores from 2015 were not significantly different from those collected in 2005, when NAEP established a new framework for its tests and data.

Average reading scores for seniors dipped slightly from 288 in 2013 to 287 in 2015. However, this decrease is not considered statistically significant because the reading data arejudged differently, Logerfo said.

Nonetheless, the 2015 scores were significantly lower than 1992, when seniors scored an average of 292 on the reading assessment.

The NAEP report also noted that the percent of seniors who were at or above “proficient” in math and reading also declined. In 2015, 25 percent were proficient in math, compared to 26 percent in 2013. In 2015, 37 percent were proficient in reading, compared to 38 percent in 2013. However, the report stated that these declines were not statistically significant.

Also, across both subjects, the scores of lower-performing students (at the 10th and 25th percentiles) decreased, compared to 2013. In math, the scores of middle-performing students (at the 50th percentile) declined, compared to 2013. There was no significant difference in math scores for higher-performing students (75th and 90th percentiles) compared to 2013.

No major changes in reading for middle- or higher-performing students (at the 50th and 75th percentile, respectively) were observed; yet, the highest-performing students (at the 90th percentile) scored even higher in 2015, compared to 2013.

The report card also noted that the percentage of seniors performing below “basic” was higher in 2015 compared to 2013.

No significant score changes were seen for any racial or ethnic group, nor did the demographic composition of the sample change significantly, according to information released along with the results.

NCES administered its assessments across the nation from January through March of 2015 in public and private schools. Approximately 13,200 students were assessed in mathematics and 18,700 students in reading.

The report can be viewed at On May 17, NCES and NAGB will release another report card assessing students’ grasp of technology and principles of engineering, Logerfo said.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].