Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Today’s results from the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessment offer tremendously hopeful news about the achievement of elementary school students:  Nine-year-olds have posted the highest scores in reading and math since these federal assessments began in the early 1970s.

At the same time, African-American and Latino achievement has soared, and, as a result, the achievement gaps among 9-year-olds are smaller than they have ever been in the history of the long-term NAEP.

“These gains at the elementary school level are a real testament to the hard work of educators who have made raising achievement and gap-closing a priority,”” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust.

This progress puts to rest the notion that achievement gaps are inevitable – expectations have increased, and students of color are rising to the challenge,”” she said. “”The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the educators who believed in these young people and have taught them to higher levels.””

“In a sense, it’s not surprising that we’re making the biggest gains in elementary schools – that’s where reformers have focused the lion’s share of energy and resources”,” Haycock said. “”Now is the time to bring that energy to the secondary level.””

Among 13-year-olds math achievement is up for every group of students since 1999, the last time these tests were administered — with African-American and Latino students showing the biggest gains. In reading, however, achievement for 13-year-olds is flat since 1999 – both overall and for each demographic group.

The NAEP results add sobering news to the national discussion on reforming high schools: Overall achievement of 17-year-olds has remained stagnant in both reading and math since the early 1970s. While African-American and Latino 17-year-olds have made some gains in that time, their reading and math skills today are nearly identical to those of White 13-year-olds.

“”This is a day to celebrate some very good news for elementary schools, but it’s also clear that much more work lies ahead,”” Haycock said. ““Despite the progress we’ve seen among 9-year-olds, African-American and Latino students at that age still lag too far behind their White peers. And the stagnant achievement and large gaps in high school are a serious threat not only to the young people themselves, but also to our national future.””

“There is now overwhelming evidence from our elementary schools that when we focus on raising achievement and closing gaps, real progress is possible,” she said. “It’s time to bring that same focus, that same sense of purpose, to our high schools.


The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth