High school seniors’ reading proficiency didn’t improve from 2002 to 2005 and declined from 1992 to 2005, according to the new Nation’s Report Card from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). In math, less than a quarter of students tested as proficient in 2005. Since 1992, the percentage of 12th graders reading at or above the basic level has slipped from 80 percent to 73 percent; the percentage at or above proficiency declined from 40 to 35 percent.
The 2005 math scores couldn’t be compared to previous years because the exam “includes more questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability to reflect changes in high school mathematics standards and coursework.” In 2005, 61 percent of seniors performed at or above the basic level; 23 percent performed at or above proficient.
Remember that many low achievers have dropped out by 12th grade. These are scores for students who’ve stuck it out. There’s a reason education reformers are focusing on high schools. We’re in trouble.
NAEP also released a more hopeful study of high school graduates’ transcripts, which show students are taking more academic courses and earning higher grades. The average 2005 grad has a 3.0 (B) average, compared to a 2.7 average in 1990.
There are many possible reasons for this apparent increase, including “grade inflation,” changes in grading standards and practices, and growth in student performance.
Fewer graduates are taking a low-level curriculum in high school. Not surprisingly, students who take harder courses earn higher test scores. But, at least in reading, that hasn’t translated into higher scores.
Update: Here’s the Education Trust analysis.
Over a quarter of the nationâ€™s high school seniors lack even basic reading skills. Over forty percent lack even basic mathematics skills. Almost half are below the basic level in science. As bad as these numbers are, the data on the achievement of low-income students and students of color is even more painful and alarming.
. . . Reading achievement has declined since 1998, with no significant difference since the last time the test was administered, in 2002. This echoes the downward trends in high school science achievement we saw in the spring of 2005. . . . a comparison of mathematics achievement between 2000 and 2005 shows that 12th-graders are no better prepared to meet the expectations we have of them today than they were to meet expectations five years ago.
Of every 100 students who enter 9th grade, just 75 will make it to 12th grade four years later, Ed Trust estimates.