Middle School Reading Performance

Reading performance by year for 8th-grade students

  • The average 8th grader scored 260 points out of 500 in NAEP’s reading assessment test in 2022.
  • Students averaged 3 points less compared to the 2019 assessment and 7 points less compared to the 2017 test.
  • The reading performance of 8th graders is 3% worse compared to 2013 and 1.14% below the 2003 levels.
  • Overall, the reading skills of 8th-grade students are on the decline, as it got worse in 3 out of the last 4 assessments.
YearAverage scoreChange
2022260-1.14%
2019263-1.50%
20172670.75%
2015265-1.12%
20132681.13%
20112650.38%
20092640.38%
20072630.38%
2005262-0.38%
2003263
vs. 2013-2.99%
vs. 2003-1.14%
  • 30% of students attending 8th grade are below the basic level of reading comprehension according to NAEP’s standards as of 2022.
  • This is a jump from 27% of students being below the basic level in the previous assessment in 2019 and 24% below the basic in 2017.
  • Over the last 20 years, 2022 reading performance test results have the biggest share of 8th-grade students below the basic levels.
  • At the same time, 31% of students are at or above the proficient reading comprehension level as of 2022, the lowest since 2007.
  • In comparison, in the 2017 assessment, there were over 36% of students performing at or above the proficient level.
Yearbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvanced
202230.00%39.00%27.00%4.00%
201927.00%39.00%29.00%4.00%
201724.00%40.00%32.00%4.00%
201524.00%42.00%31.00%4.00%
201322.00%42.00%32.00%4.00%
201124.00%42.00%30.00%3.00%
200925.00%43.00%30.00%3.00%
200726.00%43.00%28.00%3.00%
200527.00%42.00%28.00%3.00%
200326.00%42.00%29.00%3.00%

Reading performance of 8th-grade students by gender

Similar to the reading assessment of elementary school students, middle schoolers also show significant differences in reading comprehension between the two genders. Overall, female students perform historically better compared to male students, while both show a decline over time.

  • Female students attending 8th grade in US middle schools averaged 265 points on reading performance tests in 2022, while male students averaged 256 points.
  • This means that the average female student performs 3.49% better on reading performance tests compared to the average male attending 8th grade.
  • This is, however, the smallest difference between the two genders since 2011.
  • Over the last 10 years, male 8th-graders declined by 2.66% in their reading assessment results, while female students have 2.93% lower scores.
  • Over the last 20 years, male students dropped by 0.78% while female students had a bigger drop, 1.49%.
YearMaleChangeFemaleChange
2022256-0.78%265-1.49%
2019258-1.53%269-1.10%
20172620.38%2720.74%
2015261-0.76%270-1.10%
20132630.77%2731.11%
20112610.77%2700.37%
20092590.39%2690.37%
20072580.39%2680.37%
2005257-0.39%267-0.74%
2003258269
vs. 2013-2.66%-2.93%
vs. 2003-0.78%-1.49%
  • As of 2022, the share of male 8th-graders performing below the basic reading comprehension level according to NAEP’s standards stands at 34%.
  • 26% of female students performed below the basic level in 2022, the most over the last 20 years.
  • More male 8th-graders are performing below the basic level of reading comprehension than at or above the proficient level.
  • This is the case for the second time in a row after the 2019 assessment.
  • As for female students, the share of at or above-proficient-level performers has never been lower over the last 20 years.
MaleFemale
Yearbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvancedbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvanced
202234.00%38.00%24.00%3.00%26.00%40.00%30.00%4.00%
201932.00%39.00%26.00%3.00%22.00%39.00%34.00%5.00%
201728.00%41.00%28.00%3.00%19.00%39.00%36.00%6.00%
201528.00%42.00%27.00%2.00%20.00%41.00%35.00%5.00%
201326.00%43.00%28.00%3.00%18.00%40.00%36.00%6.00%
201128.00%43.00%27.00%2.00%20.00%42.00%34.00%5.00%
200929.00%44.00%26.00%2.00%21.00%42.00%34.00%4.00%
200731.00%43.00%24.00%2.00%21.00%42.00%33.00%4.00%
200532.00%42.00%24.00%2.00%22.00%42.00%32.00%4.00%
200331.00%42.00%25.00%2.00%21.00%41.00%33.00%4.00%

Reading performance of 8th-grade students by race and ethnicity

  • 8th grade students of Asian origin performed the best on reading assessment tests in 2022, averaging 281 points on NAEP’s scale.
  • They are also the only racial/ethnic group of students that increased their reading results over the last 10 years.
  • White students averaged 268 points in 2022, 4 points less compared to 2019 and 8 points less compared to 2013.
  • Black students attending 8th grade averaged 244 points on reading tests in 2022, the same as in the 2019 assessment and 6 points less compared to the 2013 assessment.
  • Hispanic students averaged 251 points in 2022, on the level with the 2019 assessment and 1.95% below the 2013 levels.
YearWhiteBlackHispanicAsian/Pacific IslanderAmerican Indian/Alaska NativeTwo or more races
2022268244251281246265
2019272244252281248267
2017275249255282253272
2015274248253280252269
2013276250256280251271
2011274249252275252269
2009273246249274251267
2007272245247271247265
2005271243246271249266
2003272244245270246266
  • 47.00% of Black students attending 8th grade performed below the basic reading comprehension level in the 2022 assessment, the most since 2005.
  • 45.00% of American Indian/Alaska Native students were below the basic reading levels in 2022, which is the most since 2003.
  • 22.00% of White students were below the basic level in 2022, the most since 2003.
  • Asian students attending 8th grade are the only racial group with over 10% of students performing at advanced reading comprehension levels as of 2022.