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National Assessment of Educational Progress


National Assessment of Educational Progress

The Nation's Report Card Logo

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in core subjects. NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. The National Assessment Governing Board, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education but independent of the Department, sets policy for NAEP and is responsible for developing the framework and test specifications. The Governing Board is a bipartisan group whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988.

NAEP results are designed to provide data on student achievement in various subjects, and are released as The Nation’s Report Card. There are no results for individual students, classrooms, or schools. NAEP reports results for different demographic groups, including gender, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. Assessments are given most frequently in mathematics, reading, science and writing. Other subjects such as the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history are assessed periodically.

In addition to assessing student achievement in various subjects, NAEP also collects information from students, teachers, and schools to help provide contextual information about the assessments and factors that may be related to students’ learning.

Teachers, principals, parents, policymakers, and researchers all use NAEP results to assess student progress across the country and develop ways to improve education in the United States. NAEP has been providing valid and reliable data on student performance since 1969.

NAEP uses a carefully designed sampling procedure that allows the assessment to be representative of the geographical, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of the schools and students in the United States. Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly to all participating students using the same test booklets and identical procedures across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for states and the urban districts that participate in the assessment.

There are two NAEP websites: the NCES NAEP website and The Nation’s Report Card website. The first site details NAEP program holistically, while the second focuses primarily on the individual releases of data.


  • History 1
  • NAEP Assessments 2
    • Main NAEP 2.1
      • National NAEP 2.1.1
      • State NAEP 2.1.2
      • NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment 2.1.3
    • Long-term trend NAEP 2.2
    • Assessment Schedule 2.3
    • NAEP State Coordinators (NSC) 2.4
  • New Technology-Based Assessments 3
    • Interactive Computer Tasks (ICTs) 3.1
    • Mathematics Computer-Based Study 3.2
    • Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment 3.3
    • Writing Computer-Based Assessment 3.4
  • Special studies 4
    • Achievement Gaps 4.1
    • High School Transcript Study (HSTS) 4.2
    • NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study 4.3
    • National Indian Education Study (NIES) 4.4
    • Mapping State Proficiency Standards 4.5
    • Past Studies 4.6
  • Criticism 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


NAEP began in 1964, with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to set up the Exploratory Committee for the Assessment of Progress in Education. The first national assessments were held in 1969. Voluntary assessments for the states began in 1990 on a trial basis and in 1996 were made a permanent feature of NAEP to be administered every two years. In 2002, selected urban districts participated in the state-level assessments on a trial basis and continue as the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA).

The development of a successful NAEP program has involved many, including researchers, state education officials, contractors, policymakers, students, and teachers.[1]

NAEP Assessments

There are two types of NAEP assessments, main NAEP and long-term trend NAEP. This separation makes it possible to meet two objectives:

  1. As educational priorities change, develop new assessment instruments that reflect current educational content and assessment methodology.
  2. Measure student progress over time.


Main NAEP assessments are conducted in a range of subjects with fourth-, eighth- and twelfth-graders across the country. Assessments are given most frequently in mathematics, reading, science, and writing. Other subjects such as the arts, civics, economics, geography and U.S. history are assessed periodically.

These assessments follow subject-area frameworks that are developed by the NAGB and use the latest advances in assessment methodology.[2] Under main NAEP, results are reported at the national level, and in some cases, the state and district levels.

National NAEP

National NAEP reports statistical information about student performance and factors related to education for the nation and for specific demographic groups in the population (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender). It includes students from both public and nonpublic (private) schools and depending on the subject reports results for grades 4, 8, and 12.

State NAEP

State NAEP results are available in some subjects for grades 4 and 8. This allows participating states to monitor their own progress over time in reading, mathematics, writing, and science. They can then compare the knowledge and skills of their students with students in other states and with the nation.

The assessments given in the states are exactly the same as those given nationally. Traditionally, state NAEP was assessed only at grades 4 and 8. However, a 2009 [3] pilot program allowed 11 states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, and West Virginia) to receive scores at the twelfth-grade level. The grade 12 program is expected to continue, with the next administration slated for 2013.

Through 1988, NAEP reported only on the academic achievement of the nation as a whole and for demographic groups within the population. Congress passed legislation in 1988 authorizing a voluntary Trial State Assessment. Separate representative samples of students were selected from each state or jurisdiction that agreed to participate in state NAEP. Trial state assessments were conducted in 1990, 1992, and 1994. Beginning with the 1996 assessment, the authorizing statute no longer considered the state component a "trial.”

A significant change to state NAEP occurred in 2001 with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also referred to as "No Child Left Behind" legislation. This legislation requires that states which receive Title I funding must participate in state NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 every two years. State participation in other subjects assessed by state NAEP (science and writing) remains voluntary.

Like all NAEP assessments, state NAEP does not provide individual scores for the students or schools assessed.

NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment

The Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) is a project developed to determine the feasibility of using NAEP to report on the performance of public school students at the district level. As authorized by congress, NAEP has administered the mathematics, reading, science, and writing assessments to samples of students in selected urban districts.

TUDA began with six urban districts in 2002, and has since expanded to 21 districts as of 2011.

District 2002 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
Albuquerque Public Schools x
Atlanta Public Schools x x x x x x
Austin Independent School District x x x x
Baltimore City Public Schools x x
Boston Public Schools x x x x x
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools x x x x x
Chicago Public Schools x x x x x x
Cleveland Metropolitan School District x x x x x
Dallas Independent School District x
Detroit Public Schools x x
District of Columbia Public Schools x x x x x x
Fresno Unified School District x x
Hillsborough County (FL) Public Schools x
Houston Independent School District x x x x x x
Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools x x
Los Angeles Unified School District x x x x x x
Miami-Dade County Public Schools x x
Milwaukee Public Schools x x
New York City Department of Education x x x x x x
School District of Philadelphia x x
San Diego Unified School District x x x x x

Long-term trend NAEP

Long-term trend NAEP is administered to 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds nationally every four years. Long-term trend assessments measure student performance in mathematics and reading and allow the performance of today’s students to be compared with students since the early 1970s.

Although long-term trend and main NAEP both assess mathematics and reading, there are several differences between them. In particular, the assessments differ in the content assessed, how often the assessment is administered, and how the results are reported. These and other differences mean that results from long-term trend and main NAEP cannot be compared directly.[4]

Assessment Schedule

NAGB sets the calendar for NAEP assessments. Please refer to the entire assessment schedule for all NAEP assessments since 1968 and those planned through 2017.

Main NAEP assessments are typically administered over approximately six weeks between the end of January and the beginning of March of every year. Long-term trend assessments are typically administered every four years by age group between October and May. All of the assessments are administered by NAEP-contracted field staff across the country.

NAEP State Coordinators (NSC)

NAEP is conducted in partnership with states. The NAEP program provides funding for a full-time NSC in each state. He or she serves as the liaison between NAEP, the state’s education agency, and the schools selected to participate.

NSCs provide many important services for the NAEP program and are responsible for:

  • coordinating the NAEP administration in the state,
  • assisting with the analysis and reporting of NAEP data, and
  • promoting public understanding of NAEP and its resources

New Technology-Based Assessments

While most NAEP assessments are administered in a paper-and-pencil based format, NAEP is moving in the direction of computer-based assessments. The 2011 writing assessment was the first to be fully computer-based.

Interactive Computer Tasks (ICTs)

ICTs are delivered to students by computer in conjunction with the science assessment. The computer delivery affords measurement of science knowledge, processes, and skills not able to be assessed in other modes. Tasks may include performance of investigations that include observations of phenomena that would otherwise take a long time, modeling of phenomena on a very large scale or invisible to the naked eye, and research of extensive resource documents. ICTs were first administered as a reportable part of the science assessment in 2009.

Mathematics Computer-Based Study

This special study in multi-stage testing, first implemented in 2011, investigates the use of adaptive testing principles in the NAEP context. A sample of students is given an online mathematics assessment which adapts to their ability level. All of the items in the study are existing NAEP items.

Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment

The Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment framework describes technology and engineering literacy as the capacity to use, understand, and evaluate technology as well as to understand technological principles and strategies needed to develop solutions and achieve goals. The three areas of the assessment are:

  • Technology and society – deals with the effects that technology has on society and on the natural world and with the sorts of ethical questions that arise from those effects.
  • Design and systems – covers the nature of technology; the engineering design process by which technologies are developed; and basic principles of dealing with everyday technologies, including maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Information and communication technology – includes computers and software learning tools; networking systems and protocols; hand-held digital devices; and other technologies for accessing, creating, and communicating information and for facilitating creative expression.

The assessment is scheduled to be administered for the first time in 2014.

Writing Computer-Based Assessment

In 2011, NAEP transitioned its writing assessment (at grades 8 and 12) from paper and pencil to a computer-based administration in order to measure students’ ability to write using a computer. The assessment takes advantage of many features of current digital technology and the tasks are delivered in multimedia formats, such as short videos and audio. Additionally, in an effort to include as many students as possible, the writing computer-based assessment system has embedded within it several universal design features such as text-to-speech, adjustable font size, and electronic spell check. In 2012, NAEP will pilot the computer-based assessment for students at grade 4.

Special studies

In addition to the assessments, NAEP coordinates a number of related special studies that often involve special data collection processes, secondary analyses of NAEP results, and evaluations of technical procedures.

Achievement Gaps

Achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another group and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant (that is, larger than the margin of error). NAEP presently has two achievement gap reports – the Hispanic-White and the Black-White.[5] These reports use NAEP scores in mathematics and reading for these groups to illuminate patterns and changes in these gaps over time.

High School Transcript Study (HSTS)

The HSTS explores the relationship between grade 12 NAEP achievement and high school academic careers by surveying the curricula being followed in our nation’s high schools and the course-taking patterns of high school students through a collection of transcripts. Recent studies have placed an emphasis on STEM education and how it correlates to student achievement on the NAEP mathematics and science assessments.

NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an NCES international assessment that measures student learning in mathematics and science. NCES initiated the NAEP-TIMSS linking study so that states and selected districts can compare their own students’ performance against international benchmarks. The linking study was conducted in 2011 at grade 8 in mathematics and science. NCES will “project,” state and district-level scores on TIMSS in both subjects using data from NAEP.

National Indian Education Study (NIES)

The NIES is a two-part study designed to describe the condition of education for American Indian/Alaska Native students in the United States. The first part of the study consists of assessment results in mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8. The second part presents the results of a survey given to American Indian/Alaska Native students, their teachers and their school administrators. The surveys focus on the students’ cultural experiences in and out of school.

Mapping State Proficiency Standards

Under the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, states develop their own assessments and set their own proficiency standards to measure student achievement. Each state controls its own assessment programs, including developing its own standards, resulting in great variation among the states in statewide student assessment practices. This variation creates a challenge in understanding the achievement levels of students across the United States. Since 2003, NCES has supported research that compares the proficiency standards of NAEP with those of individual states. State assessments are placed onto a common scale defined by NAEP scores, which allows states’ proficiency standards to be compared not only to NAEP, but also to each other. NCES has released the Mapping State Proficiency Standards report using state data for mathematics and reading in 2003, 2005, 2007 and most recently 2009.[6]

Past Studies

Over the years, NCES has conducted a number of other studies related to different aspects of the NAEP program. A few studies from the recent past are listed below:

  • The Oral Reading Study was undertaken to discover how well the nation's fourth-graders can read aloud a typical grade 4 story. The assessment provided information about students' fluency in reading aloud and examined the relationship between oral reading, accuracy, rate, fluency, and reading comprehension.
  • America's Charter Schools was a pilot study conducted as a part of the 2003 NAEP assessments in mathematics and reading at the fourth-grade level. While charter schools are similar to other public schools in many respects, they differ in several important ways, including the makeup of the student population and their location.
  • Private Schools educate about 10% of the nation’s students. In the first report, assessment results for all private schools and for the largest private school categories—Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian—were compared with those for public schools (when applicable). The second report examined differences between public and private schools in 2003 NAEP mean reading and mathematics scores when selected characteristics of students and/or schools were taken into account.
  • Technology-Based Assessment project was designed to explore the use of technology, especially the use of the computer as a tool to enhance the quality and efficiency of educational assessments.


NAEP's heavy use of statistical hypothesis testing has drawn some criticism related to interpretation of results. For example, the Nation's Report Card reported "Males Outperform Females at all Three Grades in 2005" as a result of science test scores of 100,000 students in each grade.[7] Hyde and Linn criticized this claim, because the mean difference was only 4 out of 300 points, implying a small effect size and heavily overlapped distributions. They argue that "small differences in performance in the NAEP and other studies receive extensive publicity, reinforcing subtle, persistent, biases."[8]


  1. ^ "Measuring Student Progress Since 1964". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  2. ^ "Frameworks and Specifications". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Results for public school students in 11 states available for the first time". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  4. ^ "What are the main differences between Long-Term Trend NAEP and Main NAEP?". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  5. ^ Achievement Gaps NAEP (homesite), retrieved 13 April 2013
  6. ^ Mapping State Proficiency Standards National Center for Education Statistics, retrieved 13 April 2013
  7. ^ "Male and Female Students Make Gains Since 2000 at Grade 4; Males Outperform Females at all Three Grades in 2005". The Nation's Report Card. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 16 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Hyde, Janet Shibley; Marcia C. Linn (27 October 2006). "Gender similarities in mathematics and science". Science 314 (5799): 599–600.  

External links

  • Official website
  • NAEP Data Explorer
  • NAEP Questions Tool
  • NAEP assessment reports since 2005
  • Massachusetts NAEP Web page
  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - From the Education Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Tests Measurement and Evaluation.
  • National Assessment Governing Board
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