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The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2007

By: National Center for Education Statistics
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — a.k.a. The Nation's Report Card — is a nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. This article contains some of the results of the most recent NAEP assessment in reading and compares them to results from assessments in 2005 and in the first year data were available, usually 1992.

What is the Nation's Report Card?

The Nation's Report Card informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. Report cards communicate the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a continuing and nationally representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time.

For over three decades, NAEP assessments have been conducted periodically in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and other subjects. NAEP is a congressionally authorized project of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.

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Reading 2007

As the key that allows access to many forms of knowledge and information, reading literacy is a skill critical to learning. The NAEP reading assessment measures reading comprehension by asking students to read passages and answer questions about what they have read. In this way, it collects valuable information on the progress of literacy and provides a broad picture of what our nation's students are able to read and understand at specific grade levels.

A nationally representative sample of more than 350,000 students at grades 4 and 8 participated in the 2007 reading assessment. (In grade four, 7,830 schools and 191,000 students participated. In grade 8, 6,930 schools and 160,700 students participated.) Comparing these results to results from previous years shows the progress fourth- and eighth-graders are making both in the nation and in individual states.

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Results

The 2007 assessment shows that reading skills are improving for both fourth- and eighth-graders, particularly among lower- and middle-performing students. Many student groups made gains in both grades; however, these gains were not always accompanied by significant closing of racial/ethnic and gender gaps.

Students demonstrated their reading comprehension skills by responding to questions about various types of reading passages on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment. Reading abilities were assessed in the contexts of literary experience, gaining information, and performing a task.

Fourth-graders scored higher in 2007 than in all the previous assessment years. The average reading score was up 2 points since 2005 and 4 points compared to the first assessment 15 years ago. Higher percentages of students were performing at or above the Basic and Proficient achievement levels in 2007 than in previous years.

The average reading score for eighth-graders was up 1 point since 2005 and 3 points since 1992; however, the trend of increasing scores was not consistent over all assessment years. In comparison to both 1992 and 2005, the percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased, but there was no significant change in the percentage of students at or above the Proficient level.

White, Black, and Hispanic students in both grades make gains

As indicated on the chart below, White, Black, and Hispanic students all scored higher in 2007 than in the first assessment 15 years ago at both grades 4 and 8. However, improvements for minority students did not always result in the narrowing of the achievement gaps with White students. Only the White-Black gap at grade 4 was smaller in comparison to the gaps in 2005 and 1992.

Student groups Grade 4 Grade 8
Since 1992 Since 2005 Since 1992 Since 2005
Overall
White
Black
Hispanic
Asian/
Pacific Islander
American Indian/
Alaska Native
Gaps
Male — Female
White — Black
White — Hispanic

↑ Indicates the score was higher or the gap increased in 2007.
↓ Indicates the score was lower or the gap decreased in 2007.
↔ Indicates there was no significant change in the score or the gap in 2007.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size was insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.

Female students outperform males

Patterns in improvement for male and female students varied by grade. Scores for both male and female students increased since 2005 at grade 4, but not at grade 8. In 2007, female students scored 7 points higher than male students at grade 4 and 10 points higher at grade 8. These gender score gaps were not significantly different from the gaps seen 15 years ago.

Four states and jurisdictions make gains in reading at both grades
Chart of reading gains by state
Compared with 2005
Color swatch for 4 improved states 4 states and jurisdictions (District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, and Maryland) improved at both grades,
Color swatch for 13 states that improved at grade 4 only 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming)  and Department of Defense schools improved at grade 4 only,
Color swatch for 2 states that improved at grade 8 only 2 states (Texas and Vermont) improved at grade 8 only,
Color swatch for 2 states that declined at grade 8 only 2 states declined at grade 8 (North Dakota and Rhode Island), and
Color swatch for 30 states that showed no significant change at either grade 30 states showed no significant change at either grade.

Differing patterns emerged when results were examined by the contexts for reading. For example, 5 of the 44 states and jurisdictions that showed no change in overall performance at grade 8 did show a gain in at least one of the three reading contexts.

1Department of Defense Education Activitiy (overseas and domestic schools).

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What fourth-graders know and can do in reading

The item map below is useful for understanding performance at different levels on the scale.

The scale scores on the left represent the average scores for students who were likely to get the items correct or complete. The lower-boundary scores at each achievement level are noted. The descriptions of selected assessment questions are listed in the right column and indicate what students needed to do to answer the question successfully.

For example, the map on this page shows that fourth-graders performing near the middle of the Basic range (students with an average score of 220) were likely to be able to recognize the meaning of specialized vocabulary from context. Students performing near the lower end of the Proficient range (with an average score of 239) were likely to be able to identify a character's problem and describe how it was solved.

Grade 4 NAEP Reading Item Map
Score
Question description
500
 
347
Integrate text ideas to provide and explain their application
326
Evaluate titles and support judgment about them
324
Provide text-based inference and support with story details
302
Explain causal relation between character's action and story outcome
290
Read across text to provide a sequence of specific information
290
Describe change in story character and explain cause
284
Use dialogue or action to provide inference about character trait
277
Recognize author's purpose for including information
268
Provide causal relation between text ideas
268
Cut off Score for "Advanced"
265
Connect relevant text ideas to provide an explanation
264
Extend text information to provide an opinion
257
Recognize the main purpose of an article
250
Use local story context to recognize meaning of a wordd
242
Retrieve relevant information to fit description
239
Identify character's problem and describe how it was solved
238
Recognize the main message of a story
238
Cut off Score for "Proficient"
237
Use story details to infer and describe character's feelings
236
Use character trait to make a comparison
231
Recognize fact supported by text information
226
Recognize paraphrase of explicitly stated supporting example
220
Recognize meaning of specialized vocabulary from context
216
Recognize support for interpretation of character
209
Recognize literal information from text
208
Cut off Score for "Basic"
205
Make simple inference to recognize relationship of picture to text
203
Recognize the main topic of an article
200
Provide text-based explanation of character's importance to story
193
Recognize character's motivation for central story action
189
Recognize important lesson based on story theme
158
Use explicitly stated information to provide character motivation
0
 

NOTE: Regular typeface denotes a constructed-response question. Italic typeface denotes a multiple-choice question. The position of a question on the scale represents the average scale score attained by students who had a 65 percent probability of successfully answering a constructed-response question, or a 74 percent probability of correctly answering a four-option multiple-choice question. For constructed response questions, the question description represents students' performance rated as completely correct. Scale score ranges for reading achievement levels are referenced on the map.

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What eighth-graders know and can do in reading

The item map below illustrates the range of reading ability demonstrated by eighth-graders. For example, students performing in the middle of the Basic range (with an average score of 261) were likely to be able to identify the appropriate text recommendation for a specific situation. Students performing near the top of the Proficient range (with an average score of 318) were likely to be able to infer and explain traits of a character using specific examples.

Grade 8 NAEP Reading Item Map
Score
Question description
500
 
365
Use understanding of character to interpret author's purpose
357
Use examples to explain importance of setting to plot
337
Search dense text to retrieve relevant explanatory facts
329
Recognize narrative device and explain function in story
326
Follow directions to fully complete task
323
Cut off Score for "Advanced"
321
Integrate story details to explain central conflict
318
Use specific examples to infer and explain character traits
315
Apply text information to real life situation
312
Infer and provide lesson based on historical biography
308
Describe difficulty of a task in a different context
299
Recognize explicit information from highly detailed article
298
Use metaphor to interpret character
293
Recognize author's device to convey information related to a task
288
Identify genre of story
284
Recognize what story action reveals about a character
281
Cut off Score for "Proficient"
279
Use task directions and prior knowledge to make a comparison
278
Infer character's action from plot outcome
272
Describe central problem faced by the main character
265
Recognize author's purpose for including a quotation
262
Identify causal relation between historical events
261
Use context to identify meaning of vocabulary
261
Identify appropriate text recommendation for a specific situation
259
Provide specific text information to support a generalization
253
Read across text to provide explanation
248
Recognize information included by author to persuade
244
Support opinion with text information or related prior knowledge
243
Cut off Score for "Basic"
235
Recognize explicitly stated reason for action in an article
230
Recognize reason for character's central emotion
218
Identify inference based on part of the document
215
Recognize an explicitly stated embedded detail
206
Identify appropriate description of character's feelings
205
Use global understanding of the article to provide explanation
0
 

NOTE: Regular typeface denotes a constructed-response question. Italic typeface denotes a multiple-choice question. The position of a question on the scale represents the average scale score attained by students who had a 65 percent probability of successfully answering a constructed-response question, or a 74 percent probability of correctly answering a four-option multiple-choice question. For constructed response questions, the question description represents students' performance rated as completely correct. Scale score ranges for reading achievement levels are referenced on the map.

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Adapted from: Lee, J., Grigg, W., and Donahue, P. (2007). The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2007 (NCES 2007-496). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

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