About the NAEP U.S. History Assessment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history is designed to measure students' knowledge of American history in the context of change and continuity in democracy, culture and society, technological and economic changes, and America's changing world role. Students answer a series of selected-response and constructed-response questions based on these areas (or themes) in American history. Performance results are reported for students in the nation and disaggregated by various student characteristics.

The 2022 NAEP U.S. history assessment at grade 8 was administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as a digitally based assessment. Read more about the NAEP Digitally Based U.S. History Assessment.

The NAEP U.S. History 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 U.S. history framework was guided by subject matter expert committees. The framework defines U.S. history—and the process of understanding U.S. history—as a dynamic interplay between content knowledge and intellectual (or cognitive) skills. These skills are used to understand content knowledge through analysis and interpretation. The framework was first developed for the 1994 NAEP U.S. history assessment. In 2003, the Governing Board revised and updated the framework for the 2006 U.S. History Assessment. The framework was revised to make it more useful to the general public, to delete outdated and extraneous information, and to include released NAEP questions to illustrate more clearly the content and format of the assessment. This revised framework was used to guide development for the 2022 assessment.

The U.S. history framework organizes the assessment around themes, time periods, and ways of knowing and thinking about U.S. history. Each of the questions corresponds to one of the themes and one of the periods listed below. The four historical themes define the subscales for reporting the U.S. history assessment results; in other words, one can compare the performance among different student groups and compare performance across time on each of the themes. Because subscales were developed separately for each theme, comparisons cannot be made from one subscale to another. The themes are as follows:

  1. Democracy − Change and Continuity in American democracy: Ideas, Institutions, Events, Key figures, and Controversies;
  2. Culture − The Gathering and Interactions of Peoples, Cultures, and Ideas;
  3. Technology − Economic and Technological Changes and Their Relationship to Society, Ideas, and the Environment; and
  4. World Role − The Changing Role of America in the World.

Eight chronological periods were used in developing the assessment to ensure appropriate chronological coverage. The periods focus attention on several major eras of U.S. history and overlap at times. The eight periods are as follows:

  1. Beginnings to 1607;
  2. Colonization, settlement, and communities (1607 to 1763);
  3. The Revolution and the new nation (1763 to 1815);
  4. Expansion and reform (1801 to 1861);
  5. Crisis of the Union: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 to 1877);
  6. The development of modern America (1865 to 1920);
  7. Modern America and the World Wars (1914 to 1945); and
  8. Contemporary America (1945 to the present).

The two ways of knowing and thinking about U.S. history—the cognitive dimensions of the assessment—were also used as a guide to develop questions. The two cognitive domains are as follows:

  1. Historical knowledge and perspective: includes knowing and understanding people, events, concepts, themes, movements, contexts, and historical sources; sequencing events; recognizing multiple perspectives and seeing an era or movement through the eyes of different groups; and developing a general conceptualization of U.S. history.
  2. Historical analysis and interpretation: includes explaining issues; identifying historical patterns; establishing cause-and-effect relationships; finding value statements; establishing significance; applying historical knowledge; weighing evidence to draw sound conclusions; making defensible generalizations; and rendering insightful accounts of the past.