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November 13, 2003

Illinois Reading and Math Results Parallel Nation’s Report Card

National Assessment of Educational Progress results released

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Reading and math scores earned by Illinois students are on par with national averages. Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test released today show that for the most part Illinois’ 4th and 8th graders are performing at or above the national level in reading and mathematics.

A total of 5,000 4th grader, and 4,000 8th grade Illinois students participated in the 2003 test – selected by NAEP to represent state figures and demographics. Illinois used a type of standard-setting process similar to NAEP resulting in a great deal of overlap in test content.

Overall, NAEP ranked Illinois number 10 for 4th grade math results, 13th at the 8th grade level. The rankings also gave Illinois number 11 in 4th grade reading and number 7 in 8th grade reading.

“Illinois’ students did well overall, compared to 53 states and jurisdictions tested,” said Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “The math results are certainly encouraging and most of the results were positive indicating that Illinois is doing better than other states. However, our goal needs to be to seek continued improvement.”


The test results for reading shows 35 percent of Illinois 8th grade students scored at or above the national “proficient” level of 30 percent. The average scale score for eighth-grade students in Illinois was 266 – higher than the nation’s public school score of 261.

Results for grade 4 students are no different than the national average, with 32 percent scoring at or above the “proficient” level. Grade 4 students, in Illinois and nationwide, recorded an average scale score of 216.

Females outscored males in both grades, also mirroring national gaps. Illinois grade 4 males recorded an average of 5 points lower than females –compared to a 7 point gap in national scores. At grade 8 the gap was slightly narrower for females and males with only 6 points difference, compared to an 11-point gap nationally.

Reading scores also show fourth grade Black and Hispanic students still lag behind White students in reading by 34 and 31 points respectively. Moreover, 8th grade Black and Hispanic students lag behind White students in reading by 29 and 26 points respectively.


Fourth graders significantly improved between 2000 and 2003 with 32 percent scoring at or above “proficient” on the 2003 math assessment – on par with the 32 percent nationwide, but higher than the 20 percent reaching that mark in 2000. Their scale score was 233, and was higher than the 223 score recorded in 2000.

For grade 8, 29 percent of Illinois students reached that mark, compared to 27 percent of the national sample. The average scale score for grade 8 was 277 close to the national average of 276.

Demographic results for 4th grade show white students improving by nine points, Black students by 8 points, and Hispanic students by seven points. However Blacks and Hispanics still lag behind white students. Fourth and eighth grade Asian students scored significantly higher than their national counterparts.

Scores for males and females did not significantly differ in either 4th or 8th grade. Scores for 4th grade males and females have increased since 2000, and the score for 8th grade males was higher than in 2000.


  • Reading scores for 4th and 8th graders attending central city schools were lower than for those in either urban fringe/large towns or those in rural areas/small towns.
  • Exclusion rates for disabled and limited English proficient students do not differ from the national average in either 4th or 8th grade scores.
  • Students eligible for free/reduced lunch scored lower than students who are not eligible in both 4th and 8th grade.

For more information on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, visit

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777