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2007 NAEP Reports Sustained Improvement in Math Scores Nationwide in Grades 4 and 8

Reston, Va., September 25, 2007—The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) welcomed the incremental and sustained improvement in mathematics performance shown by the results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released today. NCTM asserted that public attention to math instruction and increased emphasis on professional development for teachers are having a positive effect on the quality of math that students are learning. Since 1990, NAEP math scores have risen steadily, and the 2007 average scores for grades 4 and 8 are higher than in any previous assessment year. NCTM developed its first standards in 1989 and updated them in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics in 2000.

Between 2005 and 2007, the average fourth-grade score increased from 238 to 240, and the average eighth-grade score increased from 279 to 281. In 1990, these average scores were 213 and 263, respectively. Nationally, a higher percentage of students in both grades 4 and 8 performed at or above basic, proficient, and advanced levels in 2007 than in all previous assessments. Results for this year’s NAEP, known as the Nation’s Report Card, show that 82 percent of fourth graders and 71 percent of eighth graders performed at or above the basic level in math, compared to 50 percent and 52 percent, respectively, in 1990. The percentage of those achieving at the proficient level also increased dramatically since 1990, from 13 to 39 percent among fourth graders and from 15 to 32 percent among eighth graders.

“NAEP’s 2007 results continue a trend of encouraging national progress in mathematics education,” said NCTM President Francis (Skip) Fennell. “This year’s record high scores are an affirmation that much of what we are doing is working. The improved test scores for African-American and Hispanic students show progress in closing the achievement gap nationally, although results still lag for too many minority students and children in poverty. One of our highest priorities as educators should be to eliminate the achievement gap and help every child reach his or her potential.”

Though average scores for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students in both grades 4 and 8 were higher in 2007 than in any previous assessment year, scores for minority students other than Asians remain lower than for whites. Score increases for all groups did not result in a significant closing of performance gaps that separate whites from blacks and Hispanics. Since 1990 fourth grade black students have made a 34-point gain, which is greater than the 28-point gain for whites and the 27-point gain for Hispanics. In 2007 both male and female fourth and eighth graders’ average scores were higher than in any previous year, with males’ average scores 2 points higher.

NCTM's recently published Results and Interpretations of the 2003 Mathematics Assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress by Kloosterman and Lester, provides a comprehensive study of the 2003 NAEP which is useful in understanding the results of NAEP 2007. For background and an in depth study of the achievement gap with respect to NAEP, the chapter by Lubienski and Crockett provides useful information.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a public voice of mathematics education, providing vision, leadership, and professional development to support teachers in ensuring mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students. With 100,000 members and more than 230 Affiliates, NCTM is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education in prekindergarten through grade 12. The Council’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics includes guidelines for excellence in mathematics education. Its recently released Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics identifies the most important mathematical topics for each grade level.

Media interested in arranging an interview with NCTM President Francis (Skip) Fennell contact Gay Dillin, Media Relations Manager, 703-620-9840, ext. 2189, or cell 703-731-7110.  

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