Math Scores on the Rise for Hispanic Students

November 10, 2014

BETHESDA, Md.–Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders across the nation showed significant gains in mathematics—the equivalent of one grade level in the last ten years (2003-2013), according to “Math Scores Add  Up for Hispanic Students,” a new report issued by the Child Trends Hispanic Institute.

Top performing states include Arizona, Indiana, Hawaii, and New Jersey, while large city school districts in Boston, Charlotte, and Houston stood out as having top math scores and recording the largest increases over the past ten years among large U.S. cities.

Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Child Trends reviewed and compared fourth and eighth grade math scores in the nation, states, large cities, and select school districts.

In the past ten years, the average mathematics scores for Hispanic students rose nine points in grade four and 13 points in grade eight, with a ten-point increase roughly approximating one grade level. Significantly, our large cities kept pace, showing 10-point and 13-point increases in grades four and eight respectively.

Overall, American students are underperforming in math. Only 42 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders in the U.S. are proficient in math, based on the 2013 NAEP report. Among Hispanic students nationally, 26 percent of fourth graders and 21 percent of eight graders were proficient in math. This compares to 54 percent and 45 percent for white fourth and eighth graders, and 18 percent and 14 percent for black fourth and eighth graders.

“With Hispanic students accounting for nearly one in four of U.S. children and rapidly growing, their math achievement in school today foreshadows our national scores tomorrow,” said Natalia Pane, senior vice president of research operations at Child Trends and the report author. “This is important because we know that students who are successful in mathematics are more likely to graduate from high school, enter college, and have better paying jobs in the future.”

State and School District Top Performers

Since 2003 (through 2013), two out of three states have seen significant math score increases for Hispanic students in grades four and eight, and many have seen score increases roughly equivalent to two grade levels. Ten states have made significant four-year gains. The Child Trends report ranks New Jersey, Indiana, Hawaii, Arizona, and the Department of Defense Education Administration as notable for a combination of improvement and high math scores among Hispanics student over the past ten years.

States that have seen the most improvement over the past ten years in fourth grade mathematic scores among Hispanic students are: Hawaii (22 points), Rhode Island (18 points), Georgia, Colorado, and Indiana (each 16 points). Overall, 21 states recorded at least a 10-point improvement on fourth grade scores. States with the largest gains over the past ten years in eight grade mathematics scores among Hispanics are: Arkansas (25 points), Massachusetts (22 points), New Jersey (21 points), and Delaware (19 points). Nearly 30 states recorded double digit increases in eighth grade mathematics scores among Hispanic students during the past ten years.

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders in many large U.S. cities also show significant gains—the equivalent of roughly one grade level—in math over the last ten years. Large cities, despite poverty and low-income rates for Hispanic students ranging from 75 to 100 percent, saw greater score increases for many Hispanic subgroups, particularly at grade four, than the nation as a whole.

Top school districts such as Dallas and Miami-Dade scored more than two grade levels higher than bottom-tier school districts such as Detroit and Fresno (2013). From 2003-2013, school districts including Boston, Los Angeles and Houston have seen remarkable score increases—roughly equivalent to two grade levels—for Hispanic students. Child Trends recognizes school districts in Charlotte, Boston, and Houston as notable for their scores and gains for Hispanic students in grade four math, with honorable mentions to school districts in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the District of Columbia.

Hispanic Subgroups

Since 2003, all subgroups of Hispanic fourth-graders including, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Chicanos, and other Hispanics or Latinos, have shown statistically significant and substantial increases in math scores at both grades four and eight. These designations refer to student-reported “background” and are not necessarily indicating recent immigration. In fact, since 93 percent of Hispanic children were born in the U.S., it is likely that these selections reflect previous generations’ immigration.


About Child Trends

Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that provides valuable information and insights on the well-being of children and youth. For 35 years, policymakers, funders, educators, and service providers in the U.S. and around the world have relied on our data and analyses to improve policies and programs serving children and youth. In June 2014, Child Trends launched the Child Trends Hispanic Institute to add to the knowledge base on the fastest-growing group of children in the U.S. Our work is supported by foundations; federal, state and local government agencies; and by nonprofit organizations. Child Trends has more than 120 employees and annual revenue of about $14 million.