Reading Performance by Gender

Reading Performance by Gender

When it comes to reading comprehension, female students proved to be more proficient than their male colleagues across all ages within K-12 education, including both public and private schools. In this report, we’ll take a look at how both genders progressed over the years in terms of reading assessment tests and how they compare to each other historically.

Average reading performance by male and female students

Female students have been consistently outperforming their male colleagues across all levels of k-12 education. However, both male and female students showed decreased levels of reading comprehension assessment over the last few years.

  • As of 2022, female students outperform male students across 4th, 8th, and 12th-grade reading assessments.
  • For at least 20 years, female students have systemically been better readers compared to male students.
  • On a 1 to 500 scale created by NAEP, female students average 7 more points in 4th grade, 9 more points in 8th grade, and 12 more points in 12th grade as of 2022.
  • Within the group, 4th grade female students have gotten 1.78% below the 2013 levels, 8th graders are 2.93% below the 2013 average, and 12th graders declined by only 0.34%.
  • Over the last 20 years, females attending 4th grade average 0.47% fewer points on reading assessment tests, 8th graders are 1.49% below, and 12th graders are on the same level as 20 years ago.
YearFemale 4th gradeChangeFemale 8th gradeChangeFemale 12th gradeChange
2022221-1.34%265-1.49%
2019224-0.44%269-1.10%2920.00%
2017225-0.44%2720.74%
20152260.44%270-1.10%292-0.34%
20132250.00%2731.11%293-0.34%
20112250.45%2700.37%
20092240.00%2690.37%2940.68%
20072240.90%2680.37%
20052220.00%267-0.74%292-1.02%
2003222269
Since 2013-1.78%-2.93%-0.34%
Since 2003-0.45%-1.49%0.00%
  • Male students attending 4th grade had a more significant decline in reading comprehension than females over time, averaging 2.28% less compared to 2013 scores.
  • 8th graders are 2.66% below the 2013 levels as of 2022, which is a lower decline compared to females, and 12th graders are 1.76% below the 2013 levels.
  • Over the last 20 years, male students are averaging 0.47% fewer points on reading comprehension tests in 4th grade, 0.78% less in 8th grade, and are on the same level as 20 years ago in 12th grade.
YearMale 4th gradeChangeMale 8th gradeChangeMale 12th gradeChange
2022214-1.38%256-0.78%
2019217-0.91%258-1.53%279-1.06%
20172190.00%2620.38%
20152190.00%261-0.76%282-0.70%
20132190.46%2630.77%2840.71%
20112180.00%2610.77%
20092180.00%2590.39%2821.08%
20072180.93%2580.39%
20052160.47%257-0.39%2790.00%
2003215258
Since 2013-2.28%-2.66%-1.76%
Since 2003-0.47%-0.78%0.00%

Difference between male and female students’ reading performance

Over the years, elementary, middle, and high school students had different rates of improvement (or drops) in their reading comprehension across the two genders. While females have constantly been better on these assessments, the difference between the genders changed in both ways:

  • The average female student attending 4th grade is 3.27% better in reading performance than the average male 4th grader as of 2022.
  • Over the last 10 years, the difference between female and male 4th graders has increased by 19.39% and is now on the same level as 20 years ago.
  • 8th-grade female students are 3.52% above their male colleagues as of 2022. However, male students have reduced the difference by 7.54% since 2013 and by 17.54% since 2003.
  • When it comes to 12th graders, the average female student is 4.66% above the average male in reading performance as of the last assessment conducted in 2019. Compared to 2013, female students increased the difference between the genders by 47%, and it’s now on the same level as in 2005.
YearDifference 4th gradeDifference 8th gradeDifference 12th grade
20223.27%3.52%
20193.23%4.26%4.66%
20172.74%3.82%
20153.20%3.45%3.55%
20132.74%3.80%3.17%
20113.21%3.45%
20092.75%3.86%4.26%
20072.75%3.88%
20052.78%3.89%4.66%
20033.26%4.26%
Since 201319.39%-7.54%47.03%
Since 20030.47%-17.54%0.00%

The difference in reading comprehension levels between genders

  • Around 40.00% of male 4th graders are below the basic level of reading comprehension according to NAEP’s assessment as of 2022, compared to 34.00% of females.
  • Over the last 10 years, the share of male students performing below the basic reading level in 4th grade increased by 14.29%, while the share of females increased by 21.43%.
  • In the 8th grade, 34.00% of males are below the basic comprehension level, while only 26.00% of female students fall into this category.
  • However, the share of females attending 8th grade who perform below the basic reading levels increased by 44.44% over the last 10 years, with additional 30.77% more males performing below the basic level compared to 2013.
  • When it comes to 12th graders, 35.00% of male students are below the basic reading comprehension levels, and only 24.00% of females are in this category.
YearMale 4th gradeFemale 4th gradeMale 8th gradeFemale 8th gradeMale 12th gradeFemale 12th grade
202240.00%34.00%34.00%26.00%
201937.00%30.00%32.00%22.00%35.00%24.00%
201735.00%29.00%28.00%19.00%
201534.00%28.00%28.00%20.00%32.00%24.00%
201335.00%28.00%26.00%18.00%30.00%21.00%
201136.00%29.00%28.00%20.00%
200936.00%30.00%29.00%21.00%31.00%20.00%
200736.00%30.00%31.00%21.00%
200539.00%33.00%32.00%22.00%33.00%22.00%
200340.00%33.00%31.00%21.00%
Since 201314.29%21.43%30.77%44.44%16.67%14.29%
Since 20030.00%3.03%9.68%23.81%6.06%9.09%
Share of students performing below the basic reading comprehension level by year
  • 31.00% of male 4th graders are at and above the proficient reading comprehension level according to NAEP’s standards as of 2022, 3.13% less compared to the 2013 assessment but 10.71% more compared to the 2003 assessment.
  • Male 8th graders are at and above the proficient reading levels in 28.00% of cases in the last assessment, 9.68% fewer than 10 years ago and 3.70% more than 20 years ago.
  • 32.00% of male students attending 12th grade are at and above the proficient level of reading as of 2022.
YearMale 4th gradeMale 8th gradeMale 12th grade
202231.00%28.00%
201933.00%29.00%32.00%
201735.00%31.00%
201534.00%30.00%33.00%
201332.00%31.00%33.00%
201131.00%29.00%
200930.00%27.00%33.00%
200730.00%26.00%
200528.00%26.00%29.00%
200328.00%27.00%
Since 2013-3.13%-9.68%-3.03%
Since 200310.71%3.70%10.34%
Share of male students at and above the proficient reading comprehension level
  • Female students attending 4th grade perform at and above the proficient reading level in 36.00% of cases as of 2022, 7.69% less compared to 2013 and 2.86% above the 2003 assessment.
  • In the 8th grade, female students are at and above the proficient level in 34.00% of cases, a 19.05% decrease over 2013 and a 10.53% drop over 2003.
  • For 12th graders, female students are above proficient in 43.00% of cases, around the same rate as 10 and 20 years ago.
YearFemale 4th gradeFemale 8th gradeFemale 12th grade
202236.00%34.00%
201938.00%39.00%43.00%
201739.00%42.00%
201539.00%39.00%42.00%
201339.00%42.00%42.00%
201137.00%38.00%
200936.00%37.00%44.00%
200736.00%37.00%
200534.00%36.00%41.00%
200335.00%38.00%
Since 2013-7.69%-19.05%2.38%
Since 20032.86%-10.53%4.88%
Share of female students at and above the proficient reading comprehension level