Reading: Higher- and Lower-Performing Students

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Overall Percentile Scores

Scores higher compared to 1971 for lower-, middle-, and higher-performing students

NAEP scores are reported at five selected percentiles to show the progress made by lower- (10th and 25th percentiles), middle- (50th percentile), and higher- (75th and 90th percentiles) performing students. In comparison to 1971, the 2020 reading scores were higher for 9-year-old students at all selected percentiles. Compared to 2012, however, 2020 reading scores at all selected percentiles were not significantly different, with one exception: the score for the lowest-performing students at the 10th percentile was lower.

Figure | Trend in NAEP long-term trend reading scores at five selected percentiles for 9-year-old students
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Percentile Scores by Student Groups
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Percentile Scores by Student Groups

Scores higher for White, Black, and Hispanic 9-year-olds across the performance distribution compared to the 1970s

At all selected percentile levels, the 2020 scores for 9-year-old White and Black students were higher compared to 1971 scores. The scores for 9-year-old Hispanic students were higher at all selected percentiles compared to 1975, the first year results were reported for this student group.

Scores at all selected percentile levels were also higher in 2020 than in 1971 for 9-year-old male and female students, and for students below and at the grade typical for their age (fourth grade). 

In comparison to 2012, nine-year-old female students and students below or at the grade typical for their age (fourth grade) performing at the 10th percentile scored lower in 2020.