ASCD California

Reading Scores drop in CA, most states in much-watched national test

10/31/2019 10:16 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

During a decade of stagnation, California slowly narrows gaps with other states in math and reading


OCTOBER 30, 2019


The article was updated on Oct. 30 with additional comments and information, including the Urban Institute's state comparisons based on demographic differences.

In 2017, California education leaders heralded the significant increase in the state’s 8th-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a sign that the state’s investment in education and its adoption of the Common Core standards had taken hold.


To find the 2019 NAEP national scores in 4th and 8th grade reading go here  and go here for California and other states. To find the national 4th and 8th grade math scores, go here and go here for California and other states. For the scores of the TUDA districts, go here.

NAEP’s governing board will discuss the 2019 results at an event in Washington, D.C., that will be webcast live on Oct. 30 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm PT. To learn more about the event and register, go here

Curb that enthusiasm. In 2019, California’s 8th-graders gave back the gain, as did much of the nation, underscoring that progress on state and national standardized tests is best measured over a decade, not in single years.

The latest scores of NAEP, the closely watched national assessment taken by a sample of 4th- and 8th-graders in every state, showed that California largely followed the national pattern this year with little to no change in math but a significant decline in 8th-grade reading on a scale of 500 points.

In math, both California’s and the nation’s 8th-grade scores fell less than 1 point. The nation’s 4th-grade math score rose 1 point and California’s rose 3 points — though it was not considered statistically significant because of the sample size.

The biggest change was in reading and the news was not good. Joining 30 states whose 8th-grade reading scores also fell, California’s decline of 3 points, the same as the nation, about matched its point gain in 2017.

In 4th-grade reading, the national score fell 2 points, which was considered significant, while California’s 1 point rise was not. Only one state, low-scoring Mississippi, saw a gain in 4th-grade reading.

Los Angeles Unified, one of three California districts whose results are reported, had big single-year drops of 6 points in both 8th-grade math and reading. It was the largest decline of the 27 urban districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment project.

Taking a longer view, the national results show from 2009 to 2019 there was no improvement in math scores. Stagnant results in reading go back at least two decades for national results in both 4th and 8th grades.

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