How do Florida students compare to their Arizona peers when it comes to learning math … or science, reading or writing?

The NAEP Data Explorer is a powerful tool for accessing information contained in the National Assessment of Educational Progress program. And a new mapping feature makes it even more impressive, allowing for quick and easy comparison of public school students’ achievement levels in core subject areas across state lines.

The interactive map provides a clear, graphic representation of performance measures, achievement gaps and school lunch eligibility for any given state – with the ability to compare that state’s data to any other state, or national averages.

Users can select from several categories of criteria – grade level, subject area, gender, race/ethnicity, and time period – to customize results. The map can be saved, shared, and bookmarked for future use.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, measures public school student achievement levels in core subject areas – math, reading, science, and writing – across the county. Using grades 4 and 8 as benchmarks, the NAEP compiles average standardized test scores for public school students to measure student performance.

We gave the tool a test drive, seeking to compare the reading skills of 8th grade public school students in Illinois with those in other states. First, we customized the criteria in order to access the appropriate data set:  “8th grade,” “reading,” “by gender,” and “2007.” (Note: Users have to select one of the demographic options in order to complete the criteria.) 

The results are returned in table form listing national data at the top, followed by an alphabetical list of states. Here’s where “good” becomes “wow!” … Click on the map icon at the top of any column to launch the map feature. Select a given state – Illinois, in our example – and it becomes blue, reflecting the “focal” state. The remaining states turn different colors to reflect whether they fall above, near, or below our selected state’s score.

Better yet, to compare Illinois’ score with Ohio’s, hover the cursor (don’t click – or it will change the state selection!) over Ohio for a direct comparison between the two states.

The Nation’s Report Card, or NAEP, is administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), a federal entity responsible for the collection and analysis of data within the U.S. Department of Education. For those with an affinity for statistics relating to student performance, school finances, or other matters related to education, the NCES web site is a virtual treasure trove.

Vermont Ranks Among Top Five in Core Subject Areas

Based on 8th grade student’s standardized test scores, the following states earned top rankings in the areas of math, reading, science, and writing. Rankings are based on 2007 data, unless otherwise noted.


  1. Massachusetts
  2. Minnesota
  3. North Dakota
  4. Vermont
  5. Kansas


  1. Massachusetts
  2. Vermont
  3. Montana
  4. New Jersey
  5. Maine

Science (2005 data):

  1. North Dakota
  2. Montana
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  5. South Dakota


  1. New Jersey
  2. Connecticut
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Vermont
  5. Maine