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Content Alignment

Content Alignment

Is the Content of NAEP Similar to Other Relevant Tests?

The content alignment studies compare NAEP to other relevant assessments, such as those that measure academic preparedness for college and job-related skills. These serve as the foundation for most of the Board’s preparedness research, especially for the statistical relationship studies, which link NAEP to other tests and data. The content comparisons provide a basis for statements about what NAEP scores may indicate about the knowledge and skills that represent academic preparedness for freshman college coursework or job-training programs.

Alignment studies are designed to determine the extent to which NAEP and another test measure similar content. Although perfect alignment between two different tests cannot be expected, a substantial overlap increases confidence that statistical links between the two indicate that performance on one represents about the same level of knowledge, skills, and abilities as performance on the other. Knowing the extent of content similarities and differences helps determine the limits of interpreting the statistical relationship studies.

Content Alignment Methodology

At the 12th grade level, these studies compared the test frameworks, specifications, and items for NAEP with those of four other widely-used examinations in mathematics and reading: SAT and ACT (used primarily for college admissions), ACCUPLACER (for college course placement), and WorkKeys (used to assess job-related skills).

They included item classification studies by panels of educators that matched items from each test to the NAEP framework and NAEP items to the framework for the other test. Panelists also classified the depth of knowledge associated with each item and each content standard.

The studies with SAT, ACCUPLACER, and WorkKeys followed a design prepared by Norman Webb.

At the 8th grade level, this research effort analyzed the degree of content alignment between the 2013 NAEP Grade 8 Reading and Mathematics assessments and the 8th grade ACT EXPLORE® assessments in the same subjects.

Content Alignment Key Conclusions

Content overlaps were more extensive in mathematics than in reading, across studies relevant to academic preparedness for college and job training.

  • Overall, the studies found similar content in NAEP and the college admissions examinations SAT and ACT, and somewhat less with the ACCUPLACER.
  • These studies provide useful content-based information for interpreting statistical linking results.
  • The content overlap was more extensive in mathematics than in reading.
  • Although the reading passages in NAEP are quite different than those for the other three exams, the alignment studies found that the tests emphasize many of the same or closely related skills.
  • Some similarities were found between NAEP and WorkKeys, but also significant differences in both focus and rigor. NAEP is broader and assesses higher-level mathematics content and skills. The WorkKeys exams in Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information focus entirely on the application of academic skills in the workplace. NAEP has some comparable material, but covers a considerably wider range of mathematics topics and reading skills.