Reading Performance in Middle School by State

Reading Performance in Middle School by State

This report analyzes variations in the reading performance of 12th grade students based on the school’s location. We compare all US states in terms of their students’ average reading performance and the percentage of students who perform below the basic level and above the proficient level of reading comprehension.

Average 8th grade reading performance by state

  • In the 2022 reading performance assessment conducted by NAEP, the average 8th grade student from schools located in New Jersey scored 270 points (on a 500-point scale), the most among all US states.
  • Massachusetts students were close by with 269 points on average, followed by Utah (265), Connecticut, Idaho, and Vermont (264 points each).
  • In total, there are 22 US states whose 8th-graders averaged the same as and more than the national average for 2022 (260 points) on reading performance assessment.
  • On the other side, New Mexico students attending the 8th grade averaged 248 points on reading performance tests, the least among all US states.
  • New Mexico is followed by West Virginia (249), District of Columbia (250), Oklahoma, and Alabama (251 each) as the states with the lowest average reading performance score among 8th-graders.
StateAverage reading performance score of 8th grade students in 2022Change since 201910-year change20-year change
New Jersey2700.00%-2.17%0.75%
Massachusetts269-1.47%-2.89%-1.47%
Utah265-0.75%-1.85%0.38%
Idaho264-0.75%-2.22%0.00%
Vermont264-1.49%-3.65%-2.58%
Connecticut264-2.22%-3.65%-1.12%
Colorado263-1.50%-2.95%-1.87%
New Hampshire263-1.87%-4.01%-2.95%
New York2620.00%-1.50%-1.13%
South Dakota262-0.38%-2.24%-2.96%
Illinois262-1.13%-1.87%-1.50%
Washington262-1.50%-3.68%-0.76%
Ohio262-1.87%-2.60%-1.87%
Wisconsin262-1.87%-2.24%-1.50%
Montana261-1.51%-4.04%-3.33%
Wyoming261-1.51%-3.69%-2.25%
Indiana261-1.88%-2.25%-1.51%
Georgia260-0.76%-1.89%0.78%
Iowa260-0.76%-3.35%-2.99%
Virginia260-0.76%-2.99%-2.99%
US average260-1.14%-2.99%-1.14%
Florida260-1.14%-2.26%1.17%
Minnesota260-1.52%-4.06%-2.99%
Hawaii2590.39%-0.38%3.19%
Nevada2590.39%-1.15%2.78%
Arizona2590.00%-0.38%1.57%
California2590.00%-1.15%3.19%
Rhode Island259-1.15%-3.00%-0.77%
Michigan259-1.52%-2.63%-1.89%
Maryland259-1.89%-5.47%-1.15%
Nebraska259-1.89%-3.72%-2.63%
Pennsylvania259-1.89%-4.78%-1.89%
Tennessee258-1.53%-2.64%0.00%
Kentucky258-1.90%-4.44%-3.01%
Missouri258-1.90%-3.37%-3.37%
North Dakota258-1.90%-3.73%-4.44%
Louisiana2570.00%0.00%1.58%
Oregon257-2.65%-4.10%-2.65%
Maine257-3.02%-4.46%-4.10%
Kansas256-2.66%-4.12%-3.76%
North Carolina256-2.66%-3.40%-2.29%
Texas255-0.39%-3.41%-1.54%
Arkansas255-1.54%-2.67%-1.16%
South Carolina254-1.93%-2.68%-1.55%
Alaska2530.40%-3.07%-1.17%
Mississippi253-1.17%0.00%-0.78%
Delaware253-2.69%-4.89%-4.53%
Alabama251-0.79%-2.33%-0.79%
Oklahoma251-2.71%-4.20%-4.20%
District of Columbia2500.00%0.81%4.60%
West Virginia249-2.73%-3.11%-4.23%
New Mexico248-1.59%-3.13%-1.59%
  • Looking at the changes since the previous assessment conducted in 2019, students attending the 8th grade in Alaska had the biggest increase among all US states, even though only 0.4%.
  • Aside from Alaska, only Hawaii and Nevada had a positive growth in the reading performance score since 2019.
  • 43 states had a decline in the average reading performance of the 8th-graders, with the largest drops recorded in Maine (-3.02%), West Virginia (-2.73%), and Oklahoma (-2.71%).
  • Over the last 10 years, only the District of Columbia had an increase in the reading performance of its 8th grade students, jumping by 0.81% since 2013.
  • On average, students in the 8th grade had a 2.99% drop in reading performance results since 2013.
  • The biggest declines are recorded in Maryland (-5.47%), Delaware (4.89%), and Pennsylvania (4.78%).

Reading levels of the 8th grade students by state

  • District of Columbia has over 43% of the 8th grade students performing below the basic reading comprehension level as of 22, tied with New Mexico for the most among all US states.
  • New Mexico (40%) is the only remaining state with 40% or more 8th-graders below the basic reading level.
  • However, 33 US states have the same or bigger share of 8th graders below the basic reading levels compared to the national average as of 2022 (30%).
  • On the other end, Massachusetts and New Jersey (23%) have the lowest share of below-the-basic performers among all US states and are the only states with under 25% of 8th-graders in this category.
  • Compared to the 2019 assessment of reading performance, all US states have an increased share of 8th grade students below the basic reading level, except for 4 states which remained on the same level as in 2019.
  • The biggest increase in 8th-graders below the basic reading level since 2019 is recorded in Maine (36% increase), Oklahoma (31.03%), and Connecticut (27.27%).
  • Across the country, the average increase in the share of below-the-basic reading performers in the 8th grade is 11.11%.
StateShare of 8th graders below the basic reading level in 2022Change since 201910-year change20-year change
Maine34%36.00%61.90%61.90%
Oklahoma38%31.03%52.00%46.15%
Connecticut28%27.27%64.71%21.74%
Missouri33%26.92%50.00%57.14%
Kansas33%26.92%50.00%43.48%
North Dakota31%24.00%63.16%63.16%
New Hampshire27%22.73%68.75%42.11%
Delaware38%22.58%65.22%65.22%
Tennessee33%22.22%43.48%6.45%
Oregon33%22.22%57.14%32.00%
Maryland33%22.22%83.33%13.79%
North Carolina34%21.43%41.67%21.43%
West Virginia40%21.21%33.33%42.86%
Massachusetts23%21.05%43.75%21.05%
Indiana30%20.00%42.86%30.43%
South Carolina37%19.35%37.04%19.35%
Michigan32%18.52%39.13%28.00%
Kentucky32%18.52%60.00%45.45%
Pennsylvania32%18.52%68.42%33.33%
Colorado27%17.39%42.11%22.73%
Vermont27%17.39%68.75%42.11%
Wisconsin28%16.67%27.27%21.74%
Montana28%16.67%75.00%55.56%
Ohio29%16.00%38.10%31.82%
Wyoming29%16.00%81.25%38.10%
Nebraska30%15.38%57.89%30.43%
Idaho26%13.04%44.44%8.33%
Arkansas36%12.50%33.33%20.00%
Mississippi37%12.12%2.78%5.71%
Illinois29%11.54%26.09%26.09%
Washington29%11.54%52.63%20.83%
US average30%11.11%36.36%15.38%
Georgia31%10.71%24.00%0.00%
Florida31%10.71%34.78%-3.13%
Rhode Island32%10.34%39.13%10.34%
New Mexico43%10.26%30.30%13.16%
Utah25%8.70%31.58%4.17%
Alabama39%8.33%21.88%11.43%
Minnesota28%7.69%55.56%27.27%
Iowa29%7.41%52.63%38.10%
Virginia31%6.90%40.91%47.62%
Arizona32%6.67%14.29%-5.88%
Louisiana34%6.25%6.25%-5.56%
South Dakota27%3.85%42.11%50.00%
Nevada32%3.23%14.29%-13.51%
California33%3.13%17.86%-15.38%
Texas34%3.03%41.67%17.24%
District of Columbia43%2.38%0.00%-18.87%
Alaska37%0.00%27.59%12.12%
Hawaii32%0.00%10.34%-17.95%
New York30%0.00%25.00%20.00%
New Jersey23%0.00%53.33%9.52%
  • New Jersey is the US state with the most 8th grade students performing at and above the proficient reading level as of 2022, with 42%. It is also the only state with over 40% of proficient readers in its schools.
  • Massachusetts (39%), Utah (36%), and Connecticut and Colorado (35% each) complete the top 5 states in terms of the share of proficient readers among the 8th-graders.
  • Only 14 US states have more than 31% of proficient readers in the 8th grade, which is the national average.
  • The lowest share of proficient readers in 2022 is recorded in New Mexico, only 18%. Oklahoma has 21% of the 8th-graders at and above the proficient level, followed by Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia (all with 22%).
  • Compared to the previous reading performance assessment in 2019, only 3 US states have an increased share of proficient readers among 8th-graders, led by Alaska with 13.04% increase.
  • Hawaii (6.90%) and New York (3.13%) are the only remaining states with an increased share of proficient readers among 8th grade students.
  • On average, US states have 6.06% fewer proficient 8th-graders when it comes to reading performance.
  • The biggest drop in the share of proficient readers is recorded in New Mexico (-25.00%), Delaware (-22.58%), and North Carolina and Kansas (-21.21% each).
  • Over the last 10 years, only 4 US states had an increased share of proficient readers, with the biggest increase in the District of Columbia (27.78%).
StateShare of 8th grade students at and above the proficient reading level in 2022Change since 201910-year change20-year change
New Jersey42%-2.33%-10.64%16.67%
Massachusetts39%-13.33%-18.75%-9.30%
Utah36%-2.70%-7.69%12.50%
Colorado35%-7.89%-12.50%-2.78%
Connecticut35%-14.63%-22.22%-5.41%
Vermont34%-15.00%-24.44%-12.82%
New York33%3.13%-5.71%-5.71%
Ohio33%-13.16%-15.38%-2.94%
New Hampshire33%-10.81%-25.00%-17.50%
Illinois32%-11.11%-11.11%-5.88%
Wisconsin32%-15.79%-11.11%-13.51%
Idaho32%-15.79%-17.95%0.00%
Washington32%-15.79%-23.81%-3.03%
Maryland32%-11.11%-25.58%3.23%
Hawaii31%6.90%10.71%40.91%
Georgia31%-6.06%-3.13%14.81%
South Dakota31%-3.13%-13.89%-20.51%
US average31%-6.06%-13.89%-3.13%
Virginia31%-6.06%-13.89%-11.43%
Rhode Island31%-11.43%-13.89%3.33%
California30%0.00%3.45%36.36%
Indiana30%-18.92%-14.29%-9.09%
Wyoming30%-11.76%-18.92%-11.76%
Maine30%-16.67%-21.05%-16.67%
Minnesota30%-14.29%-25.00%-18.92%
Pennsylvania30%-14.29%-28.57%-6.25%
Florida29%-12.12%-12.12%11.54%
Missouri29%-12.12%-19.44%-17.14%
Nebraska29%-14.71%-19.44%-17.14%
Iowa29%-12.12%-21.62%-19.44%
Kentucky29%-12.12%-23.68%-14.71%
Montana29%-14.71%-27.50%-21.62%
Arizona28%-3.45%0.00%12.00%
Nevada28%-3.45%-6.67%40.00%
Tennessee28%-12.50%-15.15%7.69%
Michigan28%-12.50%-15.15%-15.15%
Oregon28%-17.65%-24.32%-15.15%
Louisiana27%0.00%12.50%22.73%
North Dakota27%-15.63%-20.59%-30.77%
Arkansas26%-10.34%-13.33%-3.70%
South Carolina26%-13.33%-13.33%8.33%
Alaska26%13.04%-16.13%-3.70%
North Carolina26%-21.21%-21.21%-7.14%
Kansas26%-21.21%-27.78%-25.71%
Delaware24%-22.58%-29.41%-22.58%
District of Columbia23%0.00%27.78%130.00%
Texas23%-8.00%-25.81%-11.54%
Mississippi22%-12.00%10.00%4.76%
Alabama22%-8.33%-12.00%-4.35%
West Virginia22%-15.38%-12.00%-12.00%
Oklahoma21%-19.23%-27.59%-30.00%
New Mexico18%-25.00%-18.18%-5.26%