This framework describes the essential knowledge and skills that will be assessed on the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment, beginning in 2014. It is not possible to assess every facet of technology and engineering literacy—the field is far too broad—so the assessment targets have been selected to capture those aspects of the nature, processes, uses, and effects of technology that are particularly important to participation in the economic, civic, and social spheres of modern society.

Areas of Technology and Engineering Literacy

The assessment targets are organized into three major areas of technology and engineering literacy, each corresponding to a broad body of knowledge and skills with which students should be familiar:

Technology and Society deals with the effects that technology has on society and the natural world and with the sorts of ethical questions that arise from those effects. Knowledge and capabilities in this area are crucial for understanding the issues surrounding the development and use of various technologies and for participating in decisions regarding their use.

Design and Systems covers the nature of technology, the engineering design process by which technologies are developed, and basic principles of dealing with everyday technologies, including maintenance and troubleshooting. An understanding of the design process is particularly valuable in assessing technologies, and it can also be applied in areas outside technology, since design is a broadly applicable skill.

Information and Communication Technology includes computers and software learning tools, networking systems and protocols, hand-held digital devices, and other technologies for accessing, creating, and communicating information and for facilitating creative expression. Although it is just one among several types of technologies, it has achieved a special prominence in technology and engineering literacy because familiarity and facility with it is essential in virtually every profession in modern society.

These three areas of technology and engineering literacy are closely interconnected. For example, to address an issue related to technology and society such as clean water, energy needs, digital-age communications, or global climate change, it is important to have an understanding of technological systems and the design process. Similarly, one must also be able to use various information and communication technologies to research problems, develop and communicate possible solutions, and achieve goals.


In all three areas of technology and engineering literacy, students are expected to be able to apply particular ways of thinking and reasoning when approaching a problem. These types of thinking and reasoning are referred to as practices, and the framework specifies three kinds in particular that students are expected to demonstrate when responding to test questions:

Understanding Technological Principles focuses on how well students are able to make use of their knowledge about technology. This knowledge ranges from discrete declarative facts and concepts to higher-level reasoning about how facts, concepts, and principles are organized into various structures and relationships. Students should be able to use their knowledge about technology to develop explanations and make predictions, comparisons, and evaluations.

Developing Solutions and Achieving Goals refers to students’ systematic use of technological knowledge, tools, and skills to solve problems and achieve goals presented in realistic contexts. This practice includes both procedural and strategic capabilities—knowing how to apply simple steps and use technological tools to address real situations, as well as when and where to apply the tools and processes.

Communicating and Collaborating concerns how well students are able to use contemporary technologies to communicate for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways, working individually or in teams, with peers and experts.


Technology and engineering literacy requires not just that students know about technology but also that they are able to recognize the technologies around them and apply what they know to problems and projects involving particular technologies. Consequently, NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment items will measure students’ technology and engineering literacy in the contexts of relevant societal issues and of actual problems that people are commonly called on to solve and goals they seek to achieve.

The contexts will vary according to the area of technology and engineering literacy and the practice being assessed, but they should include a broad sampling from the major technological fields in use today: medical technologies, information and communication technologies, energy and power technologies, transportation technologies, agriculture and biotechnology, and so forth.

Types of Tasks and Items

Technology and engineering literacy involves a range of knowledge and capabilities whose assessment requires having students perform a variety of actions using diverse tools to solve problems and meet goals within rich, complex scenarios that reflect realistic situations. To learn what students know and can do with regard to technology and engineering, the framework calls for the assessment to be totally computer-based. The use of computers makes it feasible to utilize scenario-based multimedia tasks developed for the assessment, along with more traditional item types. Although many items will be selected-response items, such as multiple choice, in which only the final answer is observed, there will also be a number of more complex items that allow the monitoring of the students’ actions as they manipulate components of the systems and models that are presented to them.

Reporting Results

Results of the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment will be reported in terms of percentages of students who attain each of the three achievement levels—Basic, Proficient, and Advanced—as is typical for NAEP results in other subjects. In addition, results of the assessment will be reported in terms of NAEP scale scores, on a 0-500 scale, for example. Scale scores will be reported for each of the three major assessment areas of technology and engineering literacy: Technology and Society, Design and Systems, and Information and Communication Technology. An overall composite score will also be reported.

In addition to scores, data will be collected on student gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch, disabilities, and English language learner status, as well as a series of background variables specific to this content area. This enables analysis of the achievement data based on these factors. As the assessment is administered in years beyond the initial probe, a trend line can be established to track changes in student achievement over time.