Most state standardized tests are based on the academic standards of each state. The National Assessment of Educational Progress - or NAEP – sometimes called the “nation’s report card,” is administered to sample groups of students nationwide. Every two years NAEP math and reading tests are given in 4th and 8th grades. This chart compares states’ average proficiency rates in math and reading in both grades starting in 2003.

States set their own rules for how the NAEP test is administered, and those policies reduce the value of cross-state comparisons. For example, Texas exempts English learners who have had fewer than four years of English instruction. California administers the test to all students.

California has consistently scored among the 10 lowest-scoring states. Massachusetts has ranked No. 1 since 2003.

Chart by John C. Osborn. Updated by Daniel J. Willis, Justin Allen and Yuxuan Xie

Note: Each year in the charts and graphs refers to both the calendar year and the fiscal year. Thus, 2013 incorporated data from the fiscal year 2013-14 (July 1 through June 30) as well as the calendar year 2013.