There are a number of web applications out there that let you compare states based on performance or improvement separately (see this one from the National Center for Education Statistics, for example). What sets our State Academic Performance and Improvement Tool apart is that it allows you to look at these two indicators at the same time.

Why would you want to look at performance and improvement? Because although each of these indicators tell us something important about a state, together they provide a far richer picture of the state’s track record than either does alone.

Consider, for example, Tennessee and South Carolina, which are highlighted in Figure 1.

The chart shows every state’s fourth-grade math results for low-income students in 2013. Based on their current performance data alone, you’d conclude that Tennessee and South Carolina are doing about the same for this group of students, right?

NAEP_tool1 Now consider Figure 2, which shows the changes in NAEP results between 2003 and 2013. Here we see a big difference between the two states: Tennessee improved its performance for low-income fourth-graders dramatically over the last decade, while South Carolina’s results have remained virtually flat.

Figures 1 and 2 both tell us something important about how Tennessee and South Carolina are doing for low-income fourth-graders in math. In the former, we learn that today, these two states perform similarly for this group to students. But the latter shows that Tennessee is on a much more promising trajectory than South Carolina. If the state continues to improve at a similar rate, it will soon surpass the national average for this group. Unless South Carolina’s trajectory changes, on the other hand, it is likely to fall further and further behind.


So how do you keep both performance and improvement in mind for all 50 states, as you try to gauge how your state compares? That’s where the State Academic Performance and Improvement Tool can help. The tool creates scatterplots like the one below that show each state’s current performance and the change in results over time. (Unsure of how to read scatterplots? Don’t worry. We have a how-to guide here.)


Using the plot above, you can easily see how Tennessee and South Carolina compare to one another: The two are similar in performance, but very different when it comes to improvement. And, you can see how they compare to the national average, represented by the green dot in the center of the chart.

With the tool you can create similar plots for any NAEP subject, grade, and student group you want. And you can highlight as many states as you want (or just mouse over the data points to see which states they represent).

Done reading? Good. Now see how your state is doing.