Reading Performance in Elementary School by State

In this report, we examine the differences in reading performance of the 4th grade students based on the school’s location. We compare all US states regarding the average trading performance of its students, as well as the share of students performing below the basic and above the proficient level of reading comprehension.

Average 4th grade student reading performance by state

  • Massachusetts is the US state with the highest average reading performance score of 4th grade students as of 2022, with 227 points on the NAEP’s scale (out of 500).
  • Florida and Wyoming (225 points) are tied for second place, while Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Jersey share the 4th spot (223 points).
  • Only 17 US states are below the national average when it comes to the reading performance of the 4th graders, with the rest 34 states (D.C. included) performing below the national average of 217 points.
  • Elementary schools from New Mexico average the lowest reading performance score of their 4th-graders, with 202 points as of 2022.
  • New Mexico is followed by Alaska (204 points), West Virginia (205), the District of Columbia (207), and Oklahoma (208).
State2022 reading performance score (average)Change since 201910-year change20-year change
Massachusetts227-1.73%-2.16%-0.44%
Florida2250.00%-0.88%3.21%
Wyoming225-0.88%-0.44%1.35%
Colorado223-0.89%-1.76%-0.45%
New Jersey223-1.76%-2.62%-0.89%
New Hampshire223-0.45%-3.88%-2.19%
Utah221-1.78%-0.90%0.91%
Hawaii2190.46%1.86%5.29%
Pennsylvania219-1.79%-3.10%0.00%
Nebraska219-1.35%-1.79%-0.90%
Ohio219-1.35%-2.23%-1.35%
Montana219-1.35%-1.79%-1.79%
Connecticut219-2.23%-4.78%-3.95%
Illinois2180.00%-0.46%0.93%
South Dakota218-1.80%0.00%-1.80%
North Dakota218-1.36%-2.68%-1.80%
Iowa218-1.36%-2.68%-2.24%
US Average217-2.11%-2.81%-0.99%
Mississippi217-0.91%3.83%5.85%
Rhode Island217-1.36%-2.69%0.46%
Kentucky217-1.81%-3.13%-0.91%
Indiana217-2.25%-3.56%-1.36%
Wisconsin217-1.36%-1.81%-1.81%
Washington217-1.36%-3.56%-1.81%
Vermont217-2.25%-4.82%-3.98%
Georgia216-0.92%-2.70%0.93%
South Carolina2160.00%0.93%0.47%
North Carolina216-2.26%-2.70%-2.26%
Arizona215-0.46%0.94%2.87%
Idaho215-3.59%-1.83%-1.38%
Kansas215-1.83%-3.59%-2.27%
Minnesota215-3.15%-5.29%-3.59%
California214-0.93%0.47%3.88%
Tennessee214-2.28%-2.73%0.94%
Texas214-0.93%-1.38%-0.47%
New York214-2.73%-4.46%-3.60%
Virginia214-4.46%-6.55%-4.04%
Alabama2130.47%-2.74%2.90%
Missouri213-2.29%-4.05%-4.05%
Maine213-3.62%-5.33%-4.91%
Louisiana2120.95%0.95%3.41%
Nevada212-2.75%-0.93%2.42%
Arkansas212-1.40%-3.20%-0.93%
Michigan212-2.75%-2.30%-3.20%
Maryland212-3.64%-8.62%-3.20%
Oregon210-3.67%-4.11%-3.67%
Delaware208-4.59%-7.96%-7.14%
Oklahoma208-3.70%-4.15%-2.80%
District of Columbia207-3.27%0.49%10.11%
West Virginia205-3.76%-4.65%-6.39%
Alaska2040.00%-2.39%-3.77%
New Mexico202-2.88%-1.94%-0.49%
  • Since the previous reading performance assessment, conducted in 2019, students from only 3 states showed an improvement, even though marginal – Louisiana, Alabama, and Hawaii.
  • 4 states remained on the same levels of reading performance since 2019 – Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, and Alaska.
  • The remaining 44 states showed a decline in 4th-graders’ reading performance since 2019, with the most significant drops recorded in Delaware (-4.59%), Virginia (-4.46%), and West Virginia (-3.76%).
  • Over the last 10 years, only 7 states improved their reading performance averages of the 4th-graders, while 43 states had a drop in reading performance since 2013.

Reading levels of the 4th grade students by state

  • As of 2022, over 52% of the 4th-graders attending schools in New Mexico are below the basic level of reading comprehension, according to NAEP’s standards.
  • District of Columbia is another school system with at least half of its 4th-graders performing below the basic reading level as of 2022.
  • 19 other states have over 40% of 4th grade students below the basic level, while only Florida and Wyoming have under 30% of below-the-basic performers.
  • Since the previous reading performance assessment, in 2019, only 4 US states reduced the share of the 4th-graders performing below the basic comprehension level – Alabama, Hawaii, Florida, and Louisiana.
  • On average, US states have 13% more 4th-graders performing below the basic reading level in 2022 compared to 2019.
  • Over the last 10 years, the share of below-the-basic reading performers among the 4th grade students declined in only 5 US states – Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Mississippi.
  • On average, US states have 25% more students in the 4th grade performing below the basic reading level compared to 2013.
  • The biggest increase over the last 10 years is recorded in Maryland (91%), Delaware (74%), and New Hampshire (65%).
  • 4 other states have an increase of 50% or more in 4th-graders performing below the basic reading level.
StateShare of 4th-graders below the basic reading level in 2022Change since 201910-year change20-year change
New Mexico52%10.64%8%-1.89%
District of Columbia50%16.28%0%-27.54%
Alaska49%4.26%17%16.67%
West Virginia48%20.00%26%37.14%
Delaware47%23.68%74%62.07%
Oklahoma45%21.62%29%12.50%
Maryland44%22.22%91%15.79%
Oregon44%22.22%29%18.92%
Nevada43%19.44%10%-10.42%
Louisiana43%-4.44%-2%-15.69%
New York42%23.53%40%27.27%
Michigan42%16.67%17%16.67%
California42%13.51%0%-16.00%
Arkansas42%10.53%24%5.00%
Texas42%7.69%14%2.44%
Tennessee41%20.59%24%-4.65%
Alabama41%-2.38%17%-14.58%
Virginia40%29.03%54%29.03%
Maine40%21.21%38%33.33%
Kansas40%17.65%38%17.65%
Missouri40%11.11%33%25.00%
Idaho39%25.81%22%8.33%
Minnesota39%25.81%50%25.81%
North Carolina39%18.18%26%14.71%
Washington39%11.43%39%18.18%
Georgia39%5.41%18%-4.88%
Arizona39%0.00%-3%-15.22%
South Carolina39%0.00%-3%-4.88%
Vermont38%18.75%52%40.74%
Kentucky38%15.15%31%5.56%
Rhode Island38%11.76%27%0.00%
Illinois38%5.56%6%-2.56%
Indiana37%12.12%37%8.82%
Wisconsin37%8.82%16%15.63%
Mississippi37%5.71%-21%-27.45%
US Average37%13.00%25.00%8.00%
Connecticut36%20.00%50%38.46%
Pennsylvania36%12.50%33%2.86%
Iowa36%12.50%29%20.00%
Hawaii36%-2.70%-5%-23.40%
Nebraska35%12.90%21%2.94%
Montana35%12.90%17%12.90%
South Dakota35%12.90%3%12.90%
North Dakota35%12.90%30%12.90%
Ohio35%9.37%21%12.90%
Utah33%17.86%14%-2.94%
New Jersey33%17.86%32%10.00%
New Hampshire33%13.79%65%32.00%
Colorado32%10.34%23%3.23%
Massachusetts30%25.00%43%11.11%
Wyoming29%7.41%16%-6.45%
Florida29%-3.33%16%-21.62%
  • Massachusetts has over 43% of its 4th-graders performing at and above the proficient reading level as of 2022, the most among all US states. It is also the only state with over 40% of students at this level.
  • It is followed by Florida (39%), New Jersey, Colorado, and Wyoming (38% each).
  • The national average among US schools in 2022 is 33% of 4th-graders performing at and above the proficient reading level.
  • 30 states are below the national average, with the lowest share of proficient readers recorded in New Mexico (21%), West Virginia (22%), Alaska, Oklahoma (24% each), and Delaware (25%).
  • Compared to the previous reading performance assessment in 2019, Louisiana had the largest gain of 4th-graders with a proficient reading level (7.69%).
  • Only 3 other states had an increased share of proficient readers among the 4th-graders since 2019 – South Carolina (6.45%), Hawaii (6.06%), and Florida (5.41%).
  • The average US state has 8% fewer students in the 4th grade at and above the proficient level compared to 2019.
  • The largest declines in the share of proficient readers in the 4th grade since 2019 are recorded in West Virginia (-26.67%), Delaware (-24.24%), and Virginia (-17.95%).
StateShare of 4th grade students at and above the proficient reading level in 2022Change since 201910-year change20-year change
Massachusetts43%-4.44%-10.42%7.50%
Florida39%5.41%0.00%21.88%
Wyoming38%-7.32%2.70%15.15%
Colorado38%-5.00%-5.00%2.70%
New Jersey38%-9.52%-9.52%-2.56%
Utah37%-7.50%0.00%15.63%
New Hampshire37%-2.63%-17.78%-7.50%
Hawaii35%6.06%16.67%66.67%
Ohio35%-2.78%-5.41%2.94%
Connecticut35%-14.63%-18.60%-18.60%
Illinois34%-2.86%3.03%9.68%
Nebraska34%-8.11%-8.11%6.25%
Pennsylvania34%-12.82%-15.00%3.03%
South Carolina33%6.45%17.86%32.00%
Wisconsin33%-5.71%-5.71%0.00%
Montana33%-8.33%-5.71%-5.71%
Iowa33%-5.71%-13.16%-5.71%
Rhode Island33%-5.71%-13.16%10.00%
Indiana33%-10.81%-13.16%0.00%
Washington33%-5.71%-17.50%0.00%
Vermont33%-10.81%-21.43%-10.81%
US Average33%
South Dakota32%-11.11%0.00%-3.03%
Idaho32%-13.51%-3.03%6.67%
Georgia32%0.00%-5.88%23.08%
North Carolina32%-11.11%-8.57%0.00%
Kentucky32%-8.57%-13.51%3.23%
Minnesota32%-15.79%-21.95%-13.51%
Virginia32%-17.95%-25.58%-8.57%
Mississippi31%0.00%47.62%72.22%
Arizona31%0.00%14.81%34.78%
California31%-3.13%14.81%47.62%
North Dakota31%-8.82%-8.82%-3.13%
Maryland31%-11.43%-29.55%-3.13%
Texas30%-3.23%7.14%11.11%
Tennessee30%-11.76%-11.76%15.38%
Missouri30%-11.76%-14.29%-11.76%
Maine30%-16.67%-18.92%-16.67%
Kansas30%-11.76%-21.05%-6.25%
Arkansas29%-6.45%-9.38%3.57%
New York29%-14.71%-21.62%-14.71%
Louisiana28%7.69%21.74%40.00%
Alabama28%-3.45%-6.67%21.74%
Michigan28%-9.68%-6.67%-12.50%
Oregon28%-17.65%-17.65%-9.68%
Nevada27%-12.90%0.00%35.00%
District of Columbia26%-16.13%13.04%136.36%
Delaware25%-24.24%-34.21%-24.24%
Alaska24%-4.00%-14.29%-14.29%
Oklahoma24%-17.24%-17.24%-7.69%
West Virginia22%-26.67%-21.43%-24.14%
New Mexico21%-12.50%-4.55%10.53%