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Commission on 12th Grade Preparedness

Commission to address 12th grade academic preparedness for jobs and college


WASHINGTON, D.C., (May 6, 2010) — The National Assessment Governing Board, the independent bipartisan body that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), has announced the creation of a special commission to increase awareness about the academic preparedness in reading and mathematics of America's 12th graders for higher education and job training.

"Today's high school students need more than a diploma. They need to achieve the rigorous skills and critical knowledge that colleges, universities, and employers expect," said former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the Commission chairman. "Particularly at a time when our nation confronts both high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers and professionals, no issue is more important than preparing high school graduates to meet the demands of the global economy."

Many of today's high school graduates lack the skills they need to enter college and the workplace, despite the critical importance of postsecondary education and training to pursuing a career, a fulfilling life, and civic participation. For example, 20 percent of freshmen in public four-year institutions and more than 40 percent in public two-year institutions are enrolled in at least one remedial course. In addition, many businesses continue to report a shortage of highly skilled workers.

The Governing Board created the NAEP High School Achievement Commission to study and disseminate results of the Governing Board's program of research about preparedness. The research is conducted in connection with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (also known as "The Nation's Report Card"), the only continuing, representative assessment of what the nation's students know and can do.

The research will enable NAEP to report on 12th grade preparedness in the United States, and the Commission aims to clearly and effectively communicate this vital information to the public, policymakers, educators, and potential employers so that they can use it in shaping education and workforce training policy and practice.

"The National Assessment Governing Board is grateful for the leadership of Governor Musgrove and the distinguished members of the Commission," commented David Driscoll, the chairman of the Governing Board. "Their mission is vital to all who are concerned with the academic preparedness of our nation's 12th graders."

NAEP is uniquely positioned to report on 12th grade students' preparedness. Very few states test all of their 12th graders, and the data of those who do cannot be combined to produce a national average score. Similarly, college admissions tests such as the ACT and SAT are taken by a selective sample of students and do not produce nationally representative results for all 12th grade students.

Reporting on 12th grade preparedness is complicated by the fact that no generally accepted definition exists for what students need to know and be able to do to qualify for entrance into postsecondary education and training without the need for remediation. The Governing Board's program of preparedness research aims to help inform the debate about what these definitions should be.

The Commission, through its meetings, hearings, and presentations, will engage the public, educators at all levels, business leaders, and policymakers in discussion on this important issue.

The Governing Board's program of research encompasses 17 projects. Taken together, they will serve as the basis for NAEP reporting on 12th grade preparedness. The research involves four types of studies, designed to:

  • Determine how the NAEP 12th grade reading and mathematics test content aligns or overlaps with the content of other tests used for admissions and placement into college and job training programs, such as the SAT, ACT, ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, WorkKeys, and employment tests.
  • Determine the statistical relationships between NAEP and the other tests.
  • Set a standard (i.e., a score) on NAEP 12th grade reading and mathematics tests that represents what students need to know and be able to do to qualify for placement in college credit-bearing courses or entry into job training programs.
  • Survey higher education institutions about their use of admissions and placement tests to enroll students into credit-bearing or remedial courses.

The Commission plans to disseminate findings of the studies as they begin to become available later this year.

In addition to Chairman Musgrove, a former Governing Board member and longtime proponent of public education, the Commission includes eight members from seven states who offer both industry and education perspectives:

  • Vice Chairman Greg Jones, retired CEO of State Farm General Insurance (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • John Engler, former governor of Michigan and president of the National Association of Manufacturers (Washington, D.C.)
  • Michael Guerra, executive director of the American Center for School Choice (Washington, D.C.)
  • Douglas Horne, founder of Horne Properties Inc. (Knoxville, Tenn.)
  • Nancy K. Kopp, Maryland state treasurer (Annapolis, Md.)
  • Steven L. Paine, West Virginia state superintendent of schools and Governing Board member (Charleston, W.Va.)
  • Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Austin, Texas)
  • Eileen Weiser, a member of the Governing Board and former member of the Michigan State Board of Education (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Stephaan Harris

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States. It has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through the Nation's Report Card, NAEP informs the public about what American students know and can do in various subject areas and compares achievement between states, large urban districts, and various student demographic groups.
The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to oversee and set policy for NAEP.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally authorized project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Center for Education Statistics, within the Institute of Education Sciences, administers NAEP. The Commissioner of Education Statistics is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project.