News Release

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading, Math Scores Up For 4th and 8th graders, Federal Report Shows

Federal Report Shows Increases Seen in Teen Birth, Low Birth Weight

The nation’s fourth and eighth graders scored higher in reading and mathematics than they did during their last national assessment, according to the federal government’s latest annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation’s children. Not all the report’s findings were positive; there also were increases in the adolescent birth rate and the proportion of infants born at low birthweight.

These and other findings are described in America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008. The report is compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families, with partners in private research organizations. It serves as a report card on the status of the nation’s children and youth, presenting statistics compiled by a number of federal agencies in one convenient reference.

"In 2007, scores of fourth and eighth graders were higher in mathematics than in all previous assessments and higher in reading than in 2005," said Valena Plisko, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Education.

This year’s report also saw an increase in low birthweight infants (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces). Low birthweight infants are at increased risk for infant death and such lifelong disabilities as blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy.

"This trend reflects an increase in the number of infants born prematurely, the largest category of low birthweight infants," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. Although not all the reasons for the increase are known, infertility therapies, delayed childbearing and an increase in multiple births may be contributing factors.

The birth rate among adolescent girls ages 15 to 17 also increased, from 21 live births for every 1,000 girls in 2005, to 22 per 1,000 in 2006. This was the first increase in the past 15 years.

"It is critical that we continue monitoring this trend carefully," said Edward J. Sondik, PhD, director of the National Center for Health Statistics in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Compared with other teens their age, teen mothers are less likely to finish high school or to graduate from college. Infants born to teen mothers are more likely to be of low birthweight."

Among the favorable changes in the report were a decline in childhood deaths from injuries and a decrease in the percentage of eighth graders who smoked daily.

These and other findings on the nation’s children and youth are described in the report’s content areas:

Demographic Background

Family and Social Environment

Economic Circumstances

Health Care

Physical Environment and Safety Education

Education Health

The Forum’s Web site at contains all data updates and detailed statistical information accompanying this year’s America’s Children in Brief report. As in previous years, not all statistics are collected on an annual basis and some data in the Brief may be unchanged from last year’s report.

Members of the public may access the report on-line at Alternatively, members of the public also may obtain printed copies from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Information Center, P.O. Box 2910, Merrifield, VA 22116, by calling 1-888-Ask-HRSA (1-888-275-4772), or by e-mailing

The Forum alternates publishing a detailed report, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a summary version that highlights selected indicators. This year, the Forum is publishing America’s Children in Brief; it will publish the more detailed report in 2009.

The data tables and figures for all the indicators in this year’s brief are available at

The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at

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