Mathematics: Student Group Scores and Score Gaps
Student Group Score Trends
Score gains for racial/ethnic and gender groups compared to 1978
In 2020, the average mathematics scores for White, Black, and Hispanic 9-year-old students were higher than in 1978. Please note that "Other" in the race/ethnicity variable includes Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and unclassified, which was used in the NAEP long-term trend assessment prior to 2012 and was classified as Two or More Races in 2012 and later assessment years. Both male and female 9-year-old students had higher average mathematics scores in 2020 than in 1978. Compared to 2012, the average score for female 9-year-olds was lower in 2020.
The long-term trend assessments are administered to samples of students defined by age rather than by grade. Nine-year-olds are typically in fourth grade. Some students in the age group, however, are in a grade below or above the grade that is typical for their age. For more information, see the About page. The average mathematics scores were higher in 2020 than in 1978 for 9-year-olds at or below fourth grade, but scores for both groups were not significantly different from 2012. Results are not shown for 9-year-olds in 5th grade or above because reporting standards were not met for most assessment years.
For more information about student groups in the NAEP long-term trend assessments, see the NAEP Data Explorer.
|Student group||2020 score||2020 score compared to|
|3rd grade or below||225||34|
See the detailed results for selected student groups in NAEP Data Explorer:
Student Group Score Gaps
White–Black score gap narrows compared to 1978; male–female gap widens compared to 2012
In 2020, the score gap between White and Black 9-year-old students narrowed from 1978. In 1978, the female 9-year-old students scored higher than their male peers by 3 points, while the male 9-year-olds scored higher than their female peers by 4 points in 2020. Compared to 2012, the male−female score gap widened by 5 points.
Demographic changes in student populations
The demographic makeup of the United States' student population has changed considerably compared to 1978. The proportion of Hispanic 9-year-old students increased from 5 percent in 1978 to 29 percent in 2020, while the proportion of White 9-year-old students decreased from 79 percent to 46 percent over the same time period. Another notable change is that a higher percentage of 9-year-olds are now in a grade lower than the one typical for their age: 26 percent of 9-year-olds were in a grade lower than fourth grade in 1978, whereas 40 percent of 9-year-old students were below their typical grade in 2020. The proportion of 9-year-olds at grade 4 has decreased from 73 percent to 60 percent over the same time period.
Select a student group from the drop-down menu to view changes in the percentage distribution for that group over time.