Frequently Asked Questions
What is the "No Child Left Behind Act," and how does it relate to the release of the current assessment?
The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in January 2002 and reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Under this legislation, the Commissioner of Education Statistics is to conduct national and state NAEP assessments at least every two years in reading and mathematics, at grades 4 and 8. These assessments must be conducted in the same year. In addition, national assessments in reading and mathematics in grade 12 are to be conducted at regularly scheduled intervals.
To the extent that time and money allow, NAEP will be conducted at grades 4, 8, and 12 in additional subjects, including arts, civics, economics, foreign language, geography, history, science, and writing, at regularly scheduled intervals.
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How many students participated?
The NAEP 2005 mathematics assessment was conducted nationally at grades 4, 8, and 12. At the national level, approximately 172,000 fourth-grade students, 162,000 eighth-grade students, and 9,000 twelfth-grade students were assessed. The NAEP 2005 reading assessment was administered nationally at grades 4, 8, and 12. At the national level, 165,000 fourth-grade students, 159,000 eighth-grade students, and 12,000 twelfth-grade students were assessed. Results for grade 12 mathematics and reading will be released in the spring of 2006.
In addition, ten urban school districts participated in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in reading and mathematics, at grades 4 and 8. The District of Columbia, traditionally included in state-level NAEP reports, also participated. TUDA, a special project in NAEP, began assessing performance in selected districts in 2002 with the reading and writing assessments and continued in 2003 and 2005 with the reading and mathematics assessments. The results for these districts, which will be available in the late fall, are for public school students only.
Find out more about who took the mathematics assessment and the reading assessment.
Information about state samples is available in the State Profiles tool.
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How are students with disabilities and English language learners included in the NAEP assessments?
It has always been important in NAEP to assess all students selected as a part of its sampling process, including students who are classified by their schools as students with disabilities (SD) and/or as English language learners (ELL). (English language learners are sometimes called limited English proficient.) The decision to exclude any of these students is made by school personnel. School personnel are encouraged to use inclusion criteria provided by NAEP and may discuss their inclusion decisions with NAEP field staff. Some students may participate with testing accommodations.
According to the current criteria, a student with a disability is to be included in the NAEP assessment except in the following cases:
- The student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines that the student cannot participate; OR,
- The student's cognitive functioning is so severely impaired that she or he cannot participate; OR,
- The student's IEP requires that the student has to be tested with an accommodation or adaptation that NAEP does not allow (see the list of NAEP accommodations).
Read more about the NAEP inclusion policy.
View the NAEP exclusion rates for reading.
View the NAEP exclusion rates for mathematics.
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How can I look at sample questions from the assessment?
Sample questions from the mathematics and reading assessments can be accessed through the links in the navigation bar on the left-hand side of this page. Released questions from all the NAEP assessments are available in the NAEP Questions Tool.
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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 (NAGB), 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 mathematics achievement-level and reading 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., fourth-graders) and groups of those populations (e.g., male students or Hispanic students). NAEP cannot 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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Is participation in NAEP voluntary?
Federal law specifies that NAEP is voluntary for every student, school, school district, and state. However, federal law also requires all states that receive Title I funds to participate in NAEP reading and mathematics assessments at fourth and eighth grades. Similarly, school districts that receive Title I funds and are selected for the NAEP sample are also required to participate in NAEP reading and mathematics assessments at fourth and eighth grades. All other NAEP assessments are voluntary. Learn more about NAEP and why participation is important.
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Are the data confidential?
Federal law dictates complete privacy for all test takers and their families. Under the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act (Public Law 107-279 III, section 303), the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is charged with ensuring that NAEP tests do not question test takers about personal or family beliefs or make information about their personal identity publicly available.
After publishing NAEP reports, NCES makes data available to researchers but withholds students' names and other identifying information. The names of all participating students are not allowed to leave the schools after NAEP assessments are administered. Because it might be possible to deduce from data the identities of some NAEP schools, researchers must promise, under penalty of fines and jail terms, to keep these identities confidential.
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Does NAEP report individual or school-level scores?
No. By design, information is not available at these levels. Reports traditionally disclose state, regional, and national results. In 2002, NAEP began to report (on a trial basis) results from several large urban districts (Trial Urban District Assessments), after the release of state and national results. Because NAEP is a large-group assessment, each student takes only a small part of the overall assessment. In most schools, only a small portion of the total grade enrollment is selected to take the assessment, and these students may not reliably or validly represent the total school population. Only when the student scores are aggregated at the state or national level are the data considered reliable and valid estimates of what students know and can do in the content area; consequently, school- or student-level results are never reported.
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What subjects does NAEP assess, and how are the subjects chosen?
Since its inception in 1969, NAEP assessments have been conducted in numerous academic subjects, including the arts, civics, geography, mathematics, reading, science, U.S. history and writing. In addition to these subjects, NAEP is developing assessments in economics, foreign language, and world history.
Beginning with the 2003 assessments, national assessments are conducted 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. The assessments are conducted in reading and mathematics 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 (NAGB) has been responsible for selecting the subject areas to be assessed. Furthermore, NAGB 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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How are state tests different from NAEP?
Most state tests measure student performance on the state's own curriculum standards, i.e., on what policymakers and citizens consider 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. NAEP is the only assessment that allows comparison of results from one state with another, or with results for the rest of the nation. The NAEP program helps states answer such questions as the following: How does the performance of students in my state compare with the performance of students in other states with similar resources or students? How does my state's performance compare with the region's? Are my state's gains in student performance keeping up with the pace of improvement in other states? The term "proficiency" used in relation to performance on state tests does not have the same meaning as the term Proficient on the NAEP achievement levels, because the criteria used to determine proficiency are different. Together, state achievement tests and NAEP help educators and policymakers develop a comprehensive picture of student performance.
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