About the Civics Assessment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in civics is designed to measure the civics knowledge and skills that are critical to the responsibilities of citizenship in America. Students answer a series of selected-response and open-ended questions designed to measure their knowledge and understanding of civics. Performance results are reported for students in the nation and disaggregated by various student characteristics.

In 2018, the NAEP civics assessment transitioned from a paper-based assessment (PBA) to a digitally based assessment (DBA) at grade 8. A multi-step process was used for the transition from PBA to DBA, which involved administering the assessment in both formats to randomly equivalent groups of students in 2018. The transition was designed and implemented with careful intent to preserve trend lines that show student performance over time. Thus, the results from the 2018 civics assessment can be compared to results from previous years.

Framework and Design

The NAEP Civics Assessment Framework

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject and how the assessment questions should be designed and scored. The development of the NAEP civics framework was guided by subject matter expert committees. The framework specifies that the assessment questions address three interrelated components of civics: knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. The same framework that has guided assessment development since 1998 was used to guide development of the 2018 digitally based assessment.

The civics framework organizes the assessment around five key content questions:

  1. What are civic life, politics, and government?
  2. What are the foundations of the American political system?
  3. How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?
  4. What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs?
  5. What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?

In addition, the framework specifies intellectual and participatory skills seen as essential for informed, effective, and responsible citizenship. These are categorized in the framework as identifying and describing; explaining and analyzing; and evaluating, taking, and defending positions on public issues.

Participatory skills essential for informed, effective, and responsible citizenship are categorized as interacting, monitoring, and influencing. Since NAEP cannot directly assess civic participation, the framework specifies that assessment questions be designed to measure whether students can identify participatory skills, recognize their purpose, explain how to use them, or specify how best to achieve diverse results by using particular skills.

Civic Dispositions: The framework also specifies the following five civic dispositions that contribute to the political efficacy of the individual, the healthy functioning of the political system, a sense of dignity and worth, and the common good:

  • Becoming an independent member of society;
  • Respecting individual worth and human dignity;
  • Assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen;
  • Participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful, and effective manner; and
  • Promoting the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.