Nation's Report Card: Long-Term Trend Assessment Shows Reading Decline

For the first time since the 1970s, the reading and mathematics scores of 13-year-old students fell.

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For the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend (LTT) assessment, the reading and mathematics scores of 13-year-old students fell.

Between 2012 and 2020, the average reading score for 13-year-old students was three points lower than in 2012, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The average score for 9-year-old students showed no significant difference from 2012.

The results are particularly unwelcome news, considering the students were assessed before the pandemic disruption, which is believed to have caused learning loss. The LTT assessment was administered to 13-year-olds between October and December 2019, and to 9-year-olds  between January and March 2020. 

The percentages of 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds who said they “never or hardly ever” read for fun increased significantly since 1984, when the question was first asked, with 16 percent of 9-year-olds (up from 9 percent in 1984) and 29 percent the 13-year-olds (up from 8 percent) now reporting they rarely, if ever, read for fun.

The LTT is intended to provide a more extended perspective over time, with trend lines going back to the 1970s. Unlike main NAEP, which is administered to students in grades 4, 8, and 12, the LTT assessments are administered to students sampled by age. The LTT assessments are typically administered at age 17 during March through May, but were postponed by the pandemic. 



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