The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a continuing nationwide assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Since 1969, assessments have been conducted periodically in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts.
The latest NAEP scores for reading are for 2000; to date, only the results for fourth-graders have been released. These show little change from earlier scores or achievement levels. NAEP’s 1999 summary of long-term trends in reading showed only a slight improvement in reading scores over the three decades from 1971 to 1999.
In the 1998 NAEP reading assessment, the percentages of students performing at or above the Proficient level in grades 4, 8, and 12 were 31, 33, and 40 percent respectively. In other words, approximately two-thirds of U.S. students cannot read proficiently.
In the 1998 NAEP writing assessment, the percentages of students performing at or above the Proficient level in grades 4, 8, and 12 were 23, 27, and 22 percent respectively. In other words, approximately three-quarters of U.S. students cannot write proficiently.
In NAEP terms, proficiency represents “solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”