The National Assessment of Educational Progress (often called the Nation's Report Card) has released findings on 4th and 8th grade reading that show gains since 1992 in 4th grade reading, but only slight gains for 8th grade reading since 2007, the last time the test was given. Last October, the NAEP showed similar results for math. New York Times story, however, looks at the longer trend, noting that since 1990, math scores have shown greater improvement than reading scores. See AP story here. Ohio Department of Education weighs in here with press release.
The Ohio snapshot of 4th grade reading scores has some interesting data:
Also, you'll sometimes hear people comparing what NAEP considers to be proficient with the definitions of proficiency each state using, with the implication that the states set a lower bar. But I don't think NAEP is a gold standard because it has found the optimum definition of proficiency. Whether some think the NAEP bar is too high or too low is irrelevant. As long as it's consistent from state to state and year to year, it's useful for tracking progress. Here's my description of the tests from a story I wrote last October about math scores:
The series of federally funded tests are part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, often referred to as ''The Nation's Report Card.'' The tests are given periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography and U.S. history.
Educators and policy-makers consider the tests valuable because, unlike individual state achievement tests, they're the same throughout the country and generally the same over time, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons and analysis of trends.
The tests are given to students and schools selected through demographic sampling. Students take only portions of the test, which means that results are not provided for individual students, schools or most districts.