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Frequently Asked Questions

What do the NAEP assessments measure, and how is the content determined?

A subject-specific content framework, developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, guides each assessment. Frameworks capture a range of subject-specific content and thinking skills needed by students to deal with the complex issues they encounter inside and outside their classrooms.

The NAEP frameworks are determined through a framework development process that ensures they are appropriate for current educational requirements. Because the assessments must remain flexible to mirror changes in educational objectives and curricula, the frameworks must be forward-looking and responsive, balancing current teaching practices with research findings. Frameworks are available on the Governing Board's website. Select "publications" from the home page.

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What subjects are assessed by the NAEP program, and how are the subjects chosen?

Since its inception in 1969, NAEP assessments have been conducted in numerous academic subjects, including mathematicssciencereadingwritinggeographyU.S. historycivics, and the arts. In addition to these subjects, NAEP is developing assessments in economics, foreign language, and world history.

Beginning with the 2003 assessments, NAEP conducts national and state assessments at least once every two years in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. Results from these assessments are released six months after administration. These assessments are conducted in the same year, and initial results are released in the fall of that year. Results from all other assessments are released about one year after administration, usually in the spring of the following year.

Since 1988, the National Assessment Governing Board has been responsible for selecting the subject areas to be assessed. Furthermore, the Governing Board oversees creation of the frameworks that underlie the assessments and the specifications that guide the development of the assessment instruments. The framework for each subject area is determined through a collaborative development process that involves teachers, curriculum specialists, subject-matter specialists, school administrators, parents, and members of the general public.

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Is information about the testing procedures available?

Yes. Technical information for the science assessment is available. The sampling, data collection, data analysis, and reporting procedures used as part of the NAEP program are described.

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Do the NAEP assessments replace the state assessments?

No. Most state tests measure student performance on the state's own curriculum standards, that is, what the state considers important for students to know and be able to do. State tests allow comparisons of results over time within the state, and in most cases give individual student scores so that parents can know how their child is performing. State tests do not provide comparisons of results with other states or the nation.

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How are results reported?

Student performance is reported in two ways: in terms of scale scores and achievement levels.

Average scale scores are derived from the overall level of performance of groups of students on NAEP assessment items. NAEP subject area average scale scores are typically expressed on a 0–500 (reading, mathematics, history, and geography) or a 0–300 (science, writing, and civics) scale. When used in conjunction with interpretive aids, such as item maps, average scores provide information about what a particular aggregate of students in the population knows and can do.

Achievement levels are performance standards set by the National Assessment Governing Board that provide a context for interpreting student performance on NAEP, based on recommendations from panels of educators and members of the public.

The levels, which are Basic, Proficient, and Advanced, measure what students should know and be able to do at each grade assessed. Read the detailed science achievement-level descriptions on the NAEP website. These descriptions are available for each of the subjects NAEP assesses.

NAEP provides results about subject-matter performance, instructional experiences, and school environment and reports these results for populations of students (e.g., students in grade 4) and groups of those populations (e.g., male students or Hispanic students). NAEP is not designed to provide individual scores for the students or schools assessed.

Because NAEP scales are developed independently for each subject, scale score and achievement-level results cannot be compared across subjects. However, these reporting metrics greatly facilitate performance comparisons within a subject from year to year, and from one group of students to another in the same grade.

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Why should students participate in NAEP?

The participation of each child selected is important to the success of the Nation's Report Card, because only a representative sample will allow the assessment to provide fair, accurate, and useful information on student achievement. Each child represents hundreds of students in his or her state. Without each child's participation, The Nation's Report Card would not fully represent students in similar schools with respect to geographic location, minority enrollment, and other characteristics.

NAEP provides the common measure we need to tell us how America's students are performing in various subject areas. It informs us how student performance has changed over time, and allows states to compare their progress with that of other states and the nation as a whole.

As the "Nation's Report Card," NAEP must provide data that accurately represent all students. To reduce the burden of testing, NAEP selects the fewest possible schools and students that will provide an accurate picture of a state or the nation. Because of this, it is important that all students selected to participate in NAEP agree to do so.

The results are widely publicized. A state's performance is often presented in comparison with other states and the nation, as is the progress that a state makes from one assessment to another. The state board of education and the legislature use the results for planning programs to address specific needs in your state.


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Are teachers required to prepare their students for NAEP?

No. Special preparation is not necessary or expected. There are no scores for individual students or schools, so teachers do not have an incentive to help students practice for any NAEP assessment.

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How much class time will be taken up by the NAEP assessments?

From start to finish, NAEP assessments take about 90 minutes.

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Do students have to leave the classroom to take NAEP?

In schools where all students are included in the assessment, NAEP is given in the classroom. In other schools, NAEP program staff work with school officials to find the most appropriate place to give the assessment.

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Do students receive individual scores?

No. NAEP does not report individual student scores. To view your state's performance on the assessment, explore the State Profiles.

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What is the schedule for the NAEP assessments?

The principal of each school will be kept informed about the specific schedule for schools and students. Below is a table that gives an overall view of the upcoming NAEP schedule.

National Assessment of Educational Progress Schedule of Assessments
Year National Assessment
(Usually at grades 4, 8, and 12)
State Assessment
(Usually at grades 4 and 8)
When Administered
2005 Reading
January-March 2005
2006 U.S. History
Economics (12 only)
  January-March 2006
2007 Reading (4 and 8 only)
Mathematics (4 and 8 only)
Writing (8 and 12 only)
Writing (8 only)
January-March 2007

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