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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (often abbreviated NAEP) is a periodic assessment of student progress conducted in the United States by the US National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. The assessment covers the areas of mathematics, reading, writing, science, and more. Assessments in world history and in foreign language are anticipated in 2012. NAEP results, released as "The Nation’s Report Card", are used by policymakers, state and local educators, principals, teachers, and parents to inform educational administration.
The NAEP assessment is conducted on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, and on samples of students at ages 9, 13, and 17 years for long-term trend assessments. These grades and ages were chosen because they represent critical junctures in academic achievement. NAEP provides data on subject-matter achievement, instructional experiences, and school environment for populations of students (e.g., all fourth-graders) and groups within those populations (e.g., female students, Hispanic students). NAEP does not provide scores for individual students or schools, although state NAEP can report results for selected large urban districts.
Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly to all participating students using the same test booklets and identical procedures across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for states and selected urban districts that participate in the assessment. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. NAEP reports results at the national level and provides state results for some assessments. On a trial basis, NAEP has released the results for a number of large urban districts.
There are two NAEP websites – one on the NCES website and one website especially for The Nation’s Report Card. The first site details NAEP as a program, while the second focuses on the individual releases of data.
Main NAEP reports statistical information about student performance and factors related to educational performance for the nation and for specific student groups in the population (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender). It includes students drawn from both public and nonpublic (private) schools and reports results for student achievement at grades 4, 8, and 12. All NAEP assessments report results at the national level, while four major subjects – reading, mathematics, writing, and science – may be reported at the state level.
These assessments follow subject-area frameworks that are developed by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and use the latest advances in assessment methodology.
The existence of two national assessment programs — long-term trend NAEP and main NAEP — makes it possible to meet two important objectives: 1) measure student progress over time, and 2) as educational priorities change, develop new assessment instruments that reflect current educational content and assessment methodology.
State NAEP allows participating states to monitor their own progress over time in reading, mathematics, writing, and science. They can then compare the knowledge and skills of their students with students in other states and with the nation.
The assessments given in the states are exactly the same as those given nationally. State NAEP assesses at grades 4 and 8, but not at grade 12. However, a pilot program has been approved so that 11 states will receive scores at the twelfth-grade level in 2009. Through 1988, NAEP reported only on the academic achievement of the nation as a whole and student groups within the population. Congress passed legislation in 1988 authorizing a voluntary Trial State Assessment. Separate representative samples of students were selected from each state or jurisdiction that agreed to participate in state NAEP. Trial state assessments were conducted in 1990, 1992, and 1994. Beginning with the 1996 assessment, the authorizing statute no longer considered the state component a "trial.”
A significant change to state NAEP occurred in 2001 with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also referred to as "No Child Left Behind" legislation. This legislation requires that states who receive Title I funding must participate in state NAEP in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 every two years. State participation in other subjects assessed by state NAEP (science and writing) remains voluntary.
Like all NAEP assessments, state NAEP does not provide individual scores for the students or schools assessed.
NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment
The NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) is designed to explore the feasibility of using NAEP to report on the performance of public school students at the district level. As authorized by federal law, NAEP has administered the mathematics, reading, science, and writing assessments to samples of students in selected urban districts.
TUDA began with five urban districts – Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City – in 2002, and has since added Austin, Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cleveland, and San Diego. The District of Columbia is reported in state NAEP and also in TUDA. In 2009, several new districts are expected to be added.
NAEP long-term trend (LTT) assessments are designed to give information on the changes over time in the academic performance of America's youth. They are administered nationally every four years and report student performance in mathematics and reading at ages 9, 13, and 17. NAEP first assessed reading in 1971 and mathematics in 1973. The next long-term trend assessment results will be released in 2009. 
Long-term trend differs from main NAEP in several ways. LTT is assessed every four years, while main NAEP is assessed every other year. LTT has used consistent frameworks since its inception in the early 1970s. Also, LTT only assesses math and reading (science used to be assessed as well), while main NAEP assesses a number of subjects.
In addition to the assessments, NAEP coordinates a number of special educational studies. Past and current projects include:
- High School Transcript Study
- Technology-Based Assessment project designed to explore the use of technology, especially the use of the computer as a tool to enhance the quality and efficiency of educational assessments.
- Oral Reading Study
- America's Charter Schools
- National Indian Education Study (NIES)
Under the current structure, the Commissioner of Education Statistics, who heads the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education, is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project. The National Assessment Governing Board, appointed by the Secretary of Education but independent of the Department, sets policy for NAEP and is responsible for developing the framework and test specifications that serve as the blueprint for the assessments. The Governing Board is a bipartisan group whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988.
- http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/worldhistory/ and http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/foreignlang/
- NAEP web site
- NAEP Data Explorer
- NAEP Questions Tool
- NAEP assessment reports since 2005
- Massachusetts NAEP Web page
- The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - From the Education Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Tests Measurement and Evaluation.
- National Assessment Governing Board