Past comparisons in math date only to 2005. Scores had increased from 2005 to 2009.
Student participants’ responses to a survey about their educational experiences offered some clues about their performance.
Among the findings:
• Students who reported rarely or never discussing reading interpretations in class averaged lower scores than those who had such discussions daily or almost daily.
• An overwhelming majority reported that reading was enjoyable. Students who strongly disagreed with that idea had scores much lower than those who strongly agreed.
• Math scores were higher, on average, for students who took calculus and lowest for students who had not taken a math course beyond Algebra I.
• Math scores were higher for students who reported math was their favorite subject, believed it would help them in the future or thought their class was engaging.
Even as 12th-grade scores have stagnated, fourth- and eighth-grade students have made slow but steady progress on the exam since the early 1990s; most progress has come in math.
Michael Petrilli, executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said it’s unclear why younger students are doing better while high school seniors are not.
“This is one of the great mysteries of education today is why are we not seeing the same improvements at the 12th-grade level as the fourth- and eighth-grade level,” Petrilli said.
One speculation is that high school seniors simply aren’t motivated when they take this exam.
More ominously, another thought is that students are taking watered-down classes and “all we’ve done is put them in courses with bigger titles,” said Mark Schneider, the vice president at the American Institutes for Research.
He is the former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
At all levels, there continue to be racial disparities.
Among high school seniors, white and Asian students scored higher on average in the recent results in both reading and math than black, Hispanic and American Indian students.