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About the Assessment: Participation Rates

The results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics assessment are based on nationally representative samples of public and private school students at grades 4, 8, and 12. Unlike NAEP assessments in other subjects such as reading, mathematics, and science, the civics assessment was not designed to report results for individual states. The results from the assessed students are combined to provide accurate estimates of the overall performance of students. Because each school that participated in the assessment, and each student assessed, represents a portion of the population of interest, the results are weighted to account for the disproportionate representation of the selected sample. Read more technical information about weighting adjustments made at the school and student level.

To ensure unbiased samples, NAEP statistical standards require that participation rates for original school samples be 70 percent or higher to report national results separately for public and private schools. In instances where participation rates meet the 70 percent criterion but fall below 85 percent, a nonresponse bias analysis is conducted to determine if the responding sample is not representative of the population, thereby introducing the potential for nonresponse bias.

Before substituting new schools for originally sampled schools that declined to participate, the student-weighted school participation rates for the 2010 civics assessment were 96 percent for grade 4 (99 percent for public schools and 65 percent for private schools), 97 percent for grade 8 (99 percent for public schools and 80 percent for private schools), and 89 percent for grade 12 (92 percent for public schools and 62 percent for private schools). Weighted student participation rates were 95 percent at grade 4, 93 percent at grade 8, and 83 percent at grade 12.

The nonresponse bias analysis for grade 8 private schools showed that, while the original responding school sample may not have been fully representative, the potential bias was reduced by including substitute schools and by adjusting the sampling weights to account for school nonresponse. After school substitution and nonresponse adjustments, a remaining potential bias was that schools in the Midwest were somewhat overrepresented in the final sample of grade 8 private schools (32 percent in the responding sample compared to 29 percent in the full sample) and Northeast schools were somewhat underrepresented (16 percent, compared to 21 percent in the full sample). At grades 4 and 12, the school participation rates for private schools fell below the standard for reporting.

An analysis was also performed to examine the potential for nonresponse bias introduced through student nonresponse in grade 12 public schools, where the weighted student response rate was 83 percent. The analysis showed that the sample of responding students differed from the original student sample with respect to relative age and student disability status. After adjusting the sampling weights to account for student nonresponse, there was no evidence of substantial bias, with the nonresponse-adjusted estimates for four variables—relative age, student disability (SD) status, English language learner (ELL) status, and eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch—differing from the unadjusted estimates by 1 percent or less. NAEP requires that participation rates for original school samples be 70 percent or higher to report national results separately for public and private schools.

Learn more about the sampling design.

School and student participation rates in NAEP civics, by grade and type of school: 2010
    School participation Student participation
Grade Type of school Student-
Number of
Number of
4 Nation 96 87 540 95 7,100
Public 99 99 450 95 6,600
Private 65 63 90 94 500
8 Nation 97 87 470 93 9,600
Public 99 99 390 92 8,800
Private 80 69 80 96 900
12 Nation 89 81 460 83 9,900
Public 92 92 410 83 8,800
Private 62 54 60 90 1,100
NOTE: The number of schools is rounded to the nearest ten. The number of students is rounded to the nearest hundred. Columns of percentages have different denominators. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2010 Civics Assessment.