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NAEP, also known as The Nation's Report Card, is a nationally representative measure of student achievement in a range of key subjects at grades 4, 8, and 12.

The Nation's Report Card

NAEP, otherwise known as The Nation's Report Card, is a nationally representative measure of what U.S. students know and can do in reading, math and various other subjects over time at grades 4, 8, and 12. Funded by Congress since 1969 and administered by the U.S. Department of Education, NAEP compares performance among states, urban districts, public and private schools, and different student demographic groups to inform the public about elementary and secondary student achievement.

Teachers, principals, parents, policymakers and researchers all use NAEP to evaluate student progress and devise ways to improve education across the U.S.

The Governing Board's Role

The Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan organization created by Congress in 1988 to set policy for NAEP. The Board's 26 members are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education and include governors, state legislators, local and state officials, educators and researchers.

The Governing Board oversees NAEP, identifies subjects to be tested, determines test content, sets performance standards called achievement levels for each assessment, approves test questions, and releases NAEP results in The Nation's Report Card. The Board also works to improve the reporting of results to make sure they are communicated effectively to a wide audience.

The 12th grade is a critical transition point for American students. After graduates leave high school, they enter college, job training, or work, but many find their next steps difficult, as measured by high college drop-out rates and unemployment.

As the only assessment representative of all U.S. 12th graders, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is in a unique position to provide key data on whether students are academically prepared for education and job-training opportunities after high school. For the past decade, the National Assessment Governing Board has been working to strengthen 12th grade NAEP and study its use as an indicator of academic preparedness.

Since the research started in 2008, there have been several phases to the work. The scope has included job training and military preparedness, in addition to college. Recent research on the relationships between 8th grade NAEP and 8th grade ACT EXPLORE® was conducted to investigate, prior to 12th grade, whether it's possible to estimate the percentage of students who are on track for being academically prepared for college.

To learn more about the progress of the research, see the following Timeline section.

When graduates leave high school, they will enter higher education, civilian or military training programs, or the workforce. Yet, parents, educators, and policy leaders have no clear indicator of whether our 12th graders are truly academically prepared for these various paths.

NAEP monitors student achievement at grades 4, 8 and 12, key points in the elementary and secondary school progression, and is the only source of nationally representative results on what U.S. 12th graders know and can do in various subjects. As a result, NAEP is uniquely positioned to serve as an indicator of whether 12th grade students have the knowledge and skills in mathematics and reading they need for pursuits beyond high school.

To answer whether NAEP can indeed serve as a reliable indicator of seniors' academic preparedness for college and job training, our preparedness research has focused on five questions:

  • Is the content of NAEP similar to other relevant tests, such as SATACT, or ACCUPLACER?
  • How does performance on NAEP compare to performance on other relevant tests and various postsecondary outcomes?
  • What is the point on the NAEP scale that experts judge as just “academically prepared”?
  • What are the tests and cut-scores used for placement in higher education?
  • How do select groups—such as individuals in job training programs—perform on NAEP?

While “readiness” is broadly understood to go beyond academic preparedness to include other characteristics needed for success in postsecondary education and training, such as habits of mind, time management, and persistence (Conley, 2007), NAEP does not measure these latter characteristics. Rather, NAEP is solely designed to measure academic knowledge and skills.

To answer these questions, the Governing Board commissioned more than 30 research studies over the last decade in five areas:

(1) Content Alignment Studies to compare the content of NAEP with the content of other relevant tests.

(2) Statistical Linking Studies to compare performance on NAEP and other relevant tests by the same sample of students.

(3) Judgmental Studies in which experts identify the point on the NAEP scale that represents“just academically prepared”.

(4) A survey of postsecondary education institutions’ use of tests and cut scores for placement into first-year courses.

(5) Benchmarking Studies in which target groups of interest take NAEP (e.g., military recruits, freshmen college students, trainees in selected technical/career programs, etc.).

Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been the gold standard for the public on the status of student achievement in a range of key subjects at grades 4, 8, and 12. In 2002, the Governing Board saw its potential as a way to measure student achievement and academic preparedness and launched its preparedness research initiative. Find out more in the timeline below.

  • 2002: The Governing Board commissions papers to begin studying ways to strengthen 12th grade NAEP
  • 2004: National blue-ribbon panel recommends that 12th grade NAEP report on preparedness.
  • 2006: The Governing Board pursues recommendations from its ad hoc committee on planning for grade 12 assessments and NAEP reading and mathematics frameworks are revised for preparedness.
  • 2008: Expert panel recommends series of research studies to report on 12th grade preparedness in reading and mathematics and a comprehensive program of research begins.
  • 2010: Comprehensive program of research begins.
  • 2011: The Board partners with the 12th Grade Preparedness Commission to convene state leaders for forum and symposium sessions.
  • 2012: Results of research studies released.
  • 2013: The Board determines and resolves how the research studies support grade 12 NAEP preparedness reporting
  • 2014: The Board conducts a second phase of preparedness research using 2013 NAEP data to show whether these new data support the conclusions from the first phase.
  • 2014: Reported the 2013 grade 12 results in terms of academic preparedness for college in the Nation's Report Card.
  • 2016: The Board reports the 2015 research study results and releases content alignment studies and statistical relationship studies for 8th grade in an effort to research what percentage of students were "on track" for preparedness.

National Assessment Governing Board
800 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 825
Washington, DC 20002

Phone: 202-357-6938
Fax: 202-357-6945