Five Reasons Why NAEP is Still Relevant

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I arrived in D.C. just in time for the Cherry Blossoms 

Recently, I was honored to be appointed to a national Principal’s Panel to look at the future development of The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card. Ten Principals from across the country met on April 12 at a downtown hotel on Capitol Hill and we were reacquainted with many details regarding NAEP. 

What is NAEP? 

It’s a national test given in all 50 states to random students in Grades 4, 8, and 12. There are a number of disciplines tested including math, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, US history and beginning in 2014, technology and engineering literacy. Frankly, as expressed in my meeting, NAEP is a complicated venture. Click here to get the full scoop.

The US Department of Education, which is ultimately responsible for the assessment, is scrambling a bit as they are witnessing the advent of the Common Core State Standards, the closest thing we have had to a national curriculum, and the resulting Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments that are now being piloted throughout the country for official implementation in the spring of 2015. 

Yet, NAEP is still relevant to students, educators, and parents:

1. NAEP is still a solid method to hold states accountable for their students’ academic progress.

The 2009 study of states and their cut points demonstrated a real discrepancy in how each state defines “proficient”. Certain states were performing much lower than others but this was not discovered until NAEP results were released. Kudos to the state of Tennessee, for example, for accepting the truth of the data and making changes. 

2. NAEP tests in areas other than ELA and math.

While NAEP will never be a tool to drive instruction for teachers or even give assessment guidance for schools or districts, it can provide data on non-Common Core (or Child Left Behind) subjects.

3. Common Core testing is “untested” while NAEP has existed since 1969.

Simply put, NAEP has longitudinal data for 45 years that is valuable in determining trends. 

4. NAEP makes it easy for your school.

While this may not last forever, the NAEP team currently brings in their own laptops (soon to be Windows tablets), sets everything up, administers the assessment, then breaks everything down and goes home. Outside of corralling the kids together and some scheduling, schools have to do very little work. All the while, they use an internal wifi network that will not tax your school’s technology. 

5. NAEP disseminates valuable educational and demographic information not found anywhere else.

Students and teachers fill out questionnaires that yield important information such as:

  • From students: demographic characteristics, experiences and support that exist in the classroom.
  • From teachers and administrators: training data, instructional practices, school policies, specific information from ELL or special education students.

I was encouraged by the professional and friendly nature of the USDOE staff. In a world where student assessment has perhaps taken up too high a percentage of student time (You don’t fatten the calf by weighing it), NAEP is one program that should continue.

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One thought on “Five Reasons Why NAEP is Still Relevant

  1. Roberta tenney April 13, 2014 / 8:11 pm

    Thanks Bill…glad you are doing this for NH and appreciate your reflections

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