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National Assessment of Educational Progress

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Overview of NAEP

What is NAEP?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subjects. NAEP assesses representative samples of students in grades 4, 8, and 12.

Why is NAEP important?

Long considered to be the "gold standard" of assessments, NAEP serves as the federal government's official measure of how well students in Massachusetts and across the nation are performing in core academic subjects over time. Additionally, NAEP has taken on a greater prominence under the No Child Left Behind Act and serves to externally confirm results of state assessments, such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

What is the difference between national NAEP and state NAEP?

Since 1969, NAEP has conducted national assessments periodically in the following subject areas: reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts.

State-level NAEP assessments began in 1990 as a way to generate reports on student performance in participating states. The state NAEP assessments, which are identical in content to national NAEP assessments, are conducted at grades 4 and 8 in four subject areas: reading, mathematics, science, and writing. In 2009, 11 states, including Massachusetts, volunteered to participate in a grade 12 reading and mathematics pilot which provided grade 12 state-level data for the first time. Since 2002, the national NAEP public school sample has been composed of all the state samples of public school students.

My school has been chosen for NAEP. Is participation in NAEP mandatory?

The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 mandates the Board of Education to ensure the participation of Massachusetts public schools selected for participation in NAEP. As an additional requirement, federal law requires states and school districts that receive funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to participate in all activities related to the biennial NAEP assessments at grades 4 and 8 in reading and mathematics.

Does the state select the schools that will participate in NAEP?

No. As part of a contract with the U.S. Department of Education, Westat, a statistical survey research organization located in Rockville, MD, selects the schools and students that will participate in NAEP.

How are schools selected for NAEP?

NAEP uses a multistage sampling design that relies on stratification (i.e., classification into groups having similar characteristics) to choose samples of schools and students. Samples are randomly selected from groups of schools that have been classified according to variables such as the extent of urbanization, the percentage of minority enrollment, and school-level performance results on state assessments.

Why are some schools always selected for NAEP?

The following explanation on why some schools are selected more frequently than others is excerpted from the Sample Design FAQ on The Nation's Report Card Web site: "NAEP usually selects 100 public schools in each state for each subject at each grade for the sample-each school would then represent about 1% of the students in public schools in the grade being assessed in that state. If a school is chosen repeatedly, typically it is because they have more than 1% of the enrollment in the grade. Other schools, with 0.5%-1% of the enrollment, are not always selected, but it probably seems like it (and if they are not selected, they are probably listed as a substitute school)."

What is the Trial District Urban Assessment (TUDA)?

In 2002, the National Assessment Governing Board, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Council of Great City Schools collaborated to develop a study to test the feasibility of a district-level NAEP assessment. That year, as part of the main NAEP assessment, NAEP oversampled the student population of five urban districts (Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City) in order to generate district-level NAEP results for those cities.

NAEP's Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) was expanded from five to nine districts in 2003. The four new districts that year included Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cleveland, and San Diego. The number of urban districts participating in NAEP has substantially increased since 2005. In 2015, 21 districts plan to participate in NAEP.

The Student Experience

Schools Chosen for NAEP

Additional Information

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Last Updated: August 20, 2014
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