Reading Scores Fall on Nation's Report Card

Fourth- and eighth-grade reading levels have declined since 2017, according to the Nation's Report Card from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

The National Center for Education Statistics released the Nation’s Report Card on Wednesday, and the results of the reading assessment were not good.

Approximately 274,000 fourth and eighth graders participated in the reading portion of the test—which also had a math section. The reading proficiency scores in both grades were lower than the last testing in 2017. Overall, fourth graders dropped from 37 percent proficient to 35; for eighth grade, it went from 36 to 34.

The results showed a widening gap between the higher- and lower-performing students. Lower-performing students had a greater loss of proficiency between 2017 and 2019. Looking at results going back to 2009, the lower-performing students were still lower in 2019, but higher-performing students had better scores than a decade ago. Nationally, scores were lower for lower-, middle-, and higher-performing students with the exception of fourth grade’s highest performers who improved.

The full report breaks down results by state, participating urban districts, gender, race, and higher-, middle- and lower-performing students. In 17 states in fourth grade and in 31 states in eighth grade, average reading scores in 2019 were lower than 2017. There were 32 and 18 states, respectively, that showed no significant change in scores. It was not all bad news, though. In each grade, one state or jurisdiction had a score increase, according to the report. In fourth grade, Mississippi increased its scores. In eighth grade, Washington, DC, showed improvement.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is senior news editor at School Library Journal.

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