The 2011 NAEP reading and math scores were released today for 4th and 8th graders, and unsurprisingly, they aren't very different from the 2009 scores. It's only been two years, after all. Here's the basic 20-year trend:
Since 1992, average scores have gone up four points in 4th grade and five points in 8th grade. Using the usual rule of thumb, that's an improvement of about half a grade level. Black and Hispanic students have done a bit better, improving their scores by roughly a full grade level since 1992. Here's a breakdown by reading proficiency levels:
This is not spectacular progress, but it's progress. Since 1992, the number of students testing "Below Basic" is down significantly in both grade levels for all ethnic groups, and the number of students testing "Proficient" or above is up a fair amount.
Test scores for 11th graders are usually not as encouraging: most of the gains in 4th and 8th grade seem to wash out in high school. But we'll have to wait a bit to see those scores. For the time being, it appears that we're continuing to make steady but slow progress. Whether that's good enough is a different question, and not one that the NAEP can answer. This is just a bit of raw data for your consideration.