NEWS RELEASES 2012-13 :: DECEMBER 6, 2012


North Carolina fourth and eighth graders scored in line with the national average on vocabulary questions administered as a part of the 2009 and 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessments according to a national report released today. The NAEP's first ever vocabulary results report, "Vocabulary Results from the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments," included an average vocabulary score among students in grades four and eight from 52 states and jurisdictions.

"It is not enough for students to just be able to match a word with its definition, they must understand its meaning in different contexts, topics and themes," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. "I am pleased that some of our eighth grade students showed gains in vocabulary skills from 2009 to 20011 but we have more work to do to make that sure all of North Carolina's students graduate high school prepared for higher education, training and careers in the global economy."

In 2009, the average score in NAEP vocabulary for public school fourth graders was 217, while North Carolina fourth graders had an average score of 220. In 2011, both the national and North Carolina average scores among fourth graders was 217. At the eighth grade level, the national average score in 2009 and 2011 was 263. In North Carolina, the average score among the state's eighth graders was 262 in 2009 and 265 in 2011.

Beginning in 2009, the NAEP integrated a measure of students' understanding of word meaning with the measurement of passage comprehension in the NAEP reading assessment. The vocabulary questions appeared in two different types of sections of the reading assessment: comprehension and vocabulary. All of the questions measured one of the three cognitive targets: locate and recall, integrate and interpret, and critique and evaluate. This focus on a student's understanding of word meaning emphasizes the important role that vocabulary plays in the process of reading comprehension. According to this report, students who scored higher on NAEP vocabulary questions also scored higher in reading comprehension. In addition, the results showed no significant change at the national level in vocabulary scores from 2009 to 2011.

The NAEP, often referred to as the "Nation's Report Card," is required of every state and is given in reading and mathematics every other year. The NAEP assesses reading in both literary and informational texts. The NAEP assesses mathematics in five content areas: number properties and operations; measurement; geometry; data analysis, statistics, and probability; and algebra.

NAEP results for the nation reflect the performance of students attending public schools (including charter schools), private schools, the Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. Comparisons between North Carolina students and the nation are made using public school scores only. Only national- and state-level data are available because the NAEP is given to a sample of students in each state. For more information and a breakdown of North Carolina's NAEP results, visit

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.