Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin*
Historically, black, Hispanic, and American Indian students have had their access to high-quality educational opportunities seriously restricted. Laws, policies, and practices served to keep their families, for the most part, in conditions of poverty, unable to afford the books and other educational materials and experiences that prepare young children for academic success. Many students of color continue to attend schools that lack many of the resources and experienced teaching and support staff that are typical of schools that serve primarily white students.
At all grade levels, white and Asian/Pacific Islander students achieved the highest reading scores on the most recent NAEP Reading Assessments, followed by Hispanic students. American Indian and black students were more likely to get lower reading scores.
Among fourth graders in 2017, Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest scores, at 239, followed by white (232) and Hispanic students (209). Black and American Indian fourth graders had the lowest scores, at 206 and 202 respectively. Among eighth graders and twelfth graders, patterns were similar, except that black students had lower scores than American Indian students.
Among fourth graders, the reading gap between white and black students narrowed substantially between 2000 and 2009 (from 34 to 25) but has since remained steady at 26. Similarly, the reading gap between white and Hispanic students narrowed considerably between 2000 and 2009 (from 34 to 25), but that trend had since slowed (this gap declined from 25 in 2011 to 23 in 2017) (Appendix 1). Among eighth grade students, the black-white reading gap narrowed slightly between 2003 and 2017, whereas the Hispanic-white gap narrowed significantly during the same period (Appendix 2). Among twelfth grade students, the gap between whites and blacks slightly grew between 1998 and 2015 (the latest data available), while the gap between white and Hispanic students narrowed slightly (Appendix 3).
* Note that none of the race groups include Hispanics of those races. Special analyses by the NCES of the 12th grade American Indian and Alaska Native data raised concerns about accuracy, so these results are not discussed in this paper.