Participation Standards for 12th Grade NAEP
The National Assessment Governing Board’s new vision for grade 12 NAEP poses serious challenges for dramatically improving response rates at the school and student level as a means to guarantee the quality of NAEP grade 12 estimates.
Declining survey response is a problem in voluntary surveys in general. Recent NAEP response rate experience verifies that response rates without mandatory public school participation continue to decrease reaching a low 55 percent overall weighted response rate for all grade 12 students in 2002. In addition, the overall response rate for students attending nonpublic schools dropped to below 50 percent in 2002. Clearly, some decision must be reached about the advisability of continuing the grade 12 assessment in the presence of these low response rates.
Existing standards and guidelines provide some guidance. Note that grade 12 response rates are near the levels which trigger serious review of the viability of the program under current NCES standards. Since even the NAEP guidelines are not satisfied by the national grade 12 assessment and prescribe only annotation of the doubtful quality of the resulting survey estimates, they are only useful in identifying a potential problem without providing specific details about its resolution. The decision to continue should be based on the development and testing of survey protocols which are expected to increase the response rate to more nearly acceptable levels in future NAEP survey rounds. It should also be based on an analysis of nonresponse utilizing additional auxiliary data that either (1) reassures us that the probable bias due to nonresponse is not serious enough to curtail future assessments at grade 12 or (2) identifies and defines the actual impact of low response rates on NAEP estimates. A decision to curtail all or part of future grade 12 assessments might include temporarily redefining the grade 12 target population to cover only students attending public schools while an effective strategy is being developed to survey the nonpublic segment.