About the NAEP Reading Assessment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment uses literary and informational texts to measure students’ reading comprehension skills. Students read grade-appropriate passages and answer questions based on what they have read. Performance results are reported for the nation overall, for states and jurisdictions, and for 27 districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). In 2017, the NAEP reading assessment transitioned from a paper-and-pencil assessment to a digitally based assessment (DBA) at grades 4 and 8. A multi-step process was used for the transition from paper-based to DBA, with the careful intent to preserve trend lines that show student performance over time. The process involved administering the assessment in both the DBA and PBA formats to randomly equivalent groups of students in 2017. Thus, the results from the 2017 reading assessment can be compared to results from previous years.


THE NAEP Reading 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 reading framework was guided by scientifically-based reading research. The framework defines reading as a dynamic cognitive process that involves understanding written text, developing and interpreting meaning, and using meaning as appropriate to the type of text. The framework also guides the types of texts included in the assessment and specifies cognitive targets for assessment questions. The same framework that has guided assessment development since 2009 was used to guide development of the 2017 digitally based assessment.

Types of Texts

Research on the nature of texts suggests that readers attend to different aspects of texts as they read different text types; that is, the nature of texts affects reading comprehension. The reading framework includes two types of texts to be used in the assessment: literary and informational. Literary and informational texts for the NAEP reading assessment are distinct categories for two reasons: (1) the structural differences that mark the texts, and (2) the purposes for which students read different texts. Each text type includes various genres.

Literary texts include fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry.

Informational texts include exposition, argumentation and persuasive texts, and procedural texts and documents.

Reading Cognitive Targets

The term cognitive target refers to the mental processes or kinds of thinking that underlie reading comprehension. The framework specifies that assessment questions for both literary and informational texts measure one of the three cognitive targets.

Locate and Recall. When locating or recalling information from what they have read, students may identify explicitly stated information or may focus on specific elements of a story.

Integrate and Interpret. When integrating and interpreting what they have read, students make complex inferences within and across texts; they may explain character motivation, infer the main idea of an article, or infer and explain the theme of a story.

Critique and Evaluate. When critiquing or evaluating what they have read, students consider the text critically by viewing it from numerous perspectives; they may evaluate overall text quality or the effectiveness of particular aspects of the text.

The proportion of the assessment questions devoted to each of the three cognitive targets varies by grade to reflect the developmental differences of students.