Trends in Reading Proficiency
Trends in reading scores over the past two decades have varied by grade level.
Among eighth-graders, average reading scores rose in the 1990s, and then remained relatively steady between 1998 and 2002. Average scores decreased between 2002 and 2005 (from 264 to 262), then showed nearly a decade of increases (rising to 268 in 2013). In 2015, average scores had decreased back to their 2011 level of 265. (Figure 1)
Fourth-grade reading scores reached a high of 221 in 2007 after rising steadily since the early 1990s, but have increased only slightly since, and were at 223 in 2015. Meanwhile, reading scores for twelfth-grade students declined between 1998 and 2005, from 290 to 286, but increased slightly in 2009 to 288. Since then, twelfth-grade scores have remained steady. (Figure 1) According to how achievement levels are scored, the latest data show students at each grade-level performing, on average, at the “basic” level—below “proficient” and “advanced.” (See Definition section for further information.)
Note: In 1996, NAEP began a transition to allowing testing accommodations for students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency. Between 1996 and 2002 two samples (one with, one without accommodations permitted) were used while a new baseline was being established. Beginning in 2002, all NAEP assessments allowed accommodations. Accommodations may include extra time, one-on-one administration, translation of assessments, or the use of bilingual dictionaries and are determined by state and district policies.