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Tuesday, 23rd October 2007

Understanding NAEP: Inside the Nation's Education Report Card

Understanding NAEP: Inside the Nation's Education Report Card
Source: Education Sector

Since NAEP was created in 1969, it has become a trusted resource. Its scores are widely cited in the media to describe national achievement levels, trends, and gaps in student performance. The publication Education Week recently described the test as the "most influential research study and information source of the past decade." NAEP data are also used by researchers and commentators as a proxy for evaluating the rigor of state standards and to assess educational progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In May, for instance, when NCES reported increases in NAEP history and civics results, observers used the information to tout the benefits of NCLB in improving student achievement across all subjects.

But what NAEP can and cannot tell us about student performance is often not well understood. The test design is technically complicated, leading to difficulty in interpreting and reporting its results. Scores, for instance, can not always be compared across grade levels or even across subjects. While a score of 240 on a fourth-grade reading test might indicate a student is proficient, the same score on an eighth-grade math assessment could mean the student is below proficiency. Such complexity leads to misinterpretations by the media and the public.

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