Reading: Student Group Scores and Score Gaps
Student Group Score Trends
Score gains for racial/ethnic and gender groups compared to the 1970s
In 2020, the average reading scores for Black and White students at age 9 were higher than in 1971, the first LTT reading assessment year. The 2020 average reading score for Hispanic students was higher than in 1975, the first year results were reported for this student group. 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 students at age 9 had higher average reading scores in 2020 than in 1971. Compared to 2012, there were no significant score changes for these student groups.
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 that is below or above the grade that is typical for their age. For more information, see the About page. The average reading scores for 9-year-olds below and at their typical grade (fourth grade) were higher in 2020 than in 1971, and were not significantly different from 2012 scores. 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||206||28|
See the detailed results for selected student groups in NAEP Data Explorer:
Student Group Score Gaps
White−Black and White−Hispanic score gaps narrow for 9-year-olds compared to the 1970s
In 2020, the score gaps between White and Black students and between White and Hispanic students at age 9 narrowed from the 1970s because Black and Hispanic students made larger gains than did White students. The average score for Black students was 35 points higher in 2020 than in 1971 and the score for White students was 14 points higher. The average score for Hispanic students increased 27 points from 1975, whereas the average score for White students increased 12 points in comparison to 1975.
Demographic changes in student populations
The demographic makeup of the United States' student population has changed considerably over the nearly half-century since the long-term trend reading assessment was first administered. At age 9, the proportion of Hispanic students increased from 5 percent in 1975 to 28 percent in 2020, while the proportion of White students decreased from 80 percent to 46 percent over the same time period. Another notable change is that a higher percentage of 9-year-old students are now in a grade lower than the one typical for their age: 24 percent of 9-year-olds were in a grade lower than fourth grade in 1971, whereas 38 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 75 percent to 61 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.