Reading Scores Fall Among U.S. High School Seniors

By Laura Camera for

THE AVERAGE READING score for high school seniors declined between 2015 and 2019 and remained unchanged in math, while the country’s lowest performing seniors saw their scores drop in both subjects.

Overall, just 37% of 12th-graders reached or exceeded the academic preparedness benchmarks for both math and reading that would qualify them for entry-level college courses – a figure unchanged since 2015.

Those are the major takeaways from the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, which was released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.

“The decline in twelfth-grade reading scores resembles the declines in fourth- and eighth-graders’ reading scores, where we saw the largest declines among the lowest-performing students,” Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner for assessment at NCES, said. “This pattern of decline concentrated among lower-performing students – across grades and across subjects – is a troubling indication that too many students are falling behind.”

The assessment is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students in the U.S. know and can do in various subject areas. The NAEP mathematics and reading assessments were administered to 52,100 12th-graders from public and private schools across the country between January and March 2019.

This particular NAEP assessment marked the first time it was administered digitally at grade 12.

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