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First Studies on 12th Grade NAEP

Governing Board Unveils First Studies on 12th Grade NAEP and Postsecondary Preparedness

In 2011, research will continue on how NAEP can measure academic preparedness for college and job training

WASHINGTON, DC (November 22, 2010) — The National Assessment Governing Board Friday unveiled the first findings of research it has commissioned to determine how the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—also known as The Nation's Report Card—may be able to measure and report on the academic preparedness of 12th graders for postsecondary education and training.

The initial set of eight studies compares the content of the Grade 12 NAEP in reading and mathematics with other assessments widely used as indicators of preparedness for college, such as the ACT and the SAT, and for the workplace, such as WorkKeys (an assessment designed for use by employers to evaluate the knowledge and skills of a prospective employee relative to a job profile).

The studies found that the content of NAEP is similar to the content of major tests used for college admissions—the SAT and ACT—and college course placement—the ACCUPLACER—although NAEP's content was generally broader. There were a few differences between NAEP and the other assessments in areas such as the length of reading texts and the types of test questions (NAEP uses both multiple choice and open-ended test questions, for example, while the other tests use only multiple choice).

These findings provide a firm foundation for other research planned for NAEP and college preparedness, including studies of the relationship between student performance on NAEP and on the SAT, ACT and ACCUPLACER.

In regard to preparedness for workplace training, the comparisons of NAEP and WorkKeys content found some similarities, although WorkKeys measures some content that is not in NAEP. Another difference: while WorkKeys assessments focus on mathematics and reading skills in workplace situations, NAEP does not have as a primary focus questions related to job skills, although some are included on the assessment.

In total, more than 30 studies on preparedness are completed, underway, or planned, and their final results will be reported in late 2011. These studies have potential benefit not just to the NAEP 12th grade preparedness initiative, but to educators and policymakers at the K-12 and postsecondary levels who want to improve the achievement of U.S. students and ensure that high school graduates are well-prepared for college and job training.

For example, one of the studies underway is a nationally representative survey of 2-year and 4-year public and private colleges and universities. The purpose of the survey is to identify the placement tests used in deciding whether freshmen need remedial coursework in reading or mathematics, and the cut-scores that serve as the basis of that decision. In other planned studies, panels of experts will identify the knowledge and skills in reading and mathematics needed to be placed into entry-level college courses without remediation, or to qualify for job training in selected occupations. Currently, there is no generally accepted definition of "preparedness;" the NAEP research will help inform the debate on this issue.

"Because it is the nation's only representative measure of 12th grade student achievement, NAEP is uniquely positioned to serve as an indicator of preparedness," said Governing Board chair David Driscoll.  "As we look at other countries that are competing with us, the urgency of improving student achievement has never been greater, and we are working hard so that NAEP can fulfill its potential as truth teller about the achievement of our young people."

The Governing Board's work on 12th grade issues began eight years ago when it established a special commission in November 2002. Since then the Board has arranged focus groups of educators, students, technical advisors, and business representatives to study this area. The Board appointed a technical panel of experts in 2006 to identify research studies that could examine the links between NAEP and academic preparedness. In March 2009, the Board formally approved a program of preparedness research—the only research based on results from the 12th grade NAEP Report Card in Reading and Math.

"We have laid a strong foundation of research that will guide us in determining accurately and comprehensively the role NAEP can play in reporting preparedness," said Cornelia Orr, Governing Board Executive Director. "The current research findings are confirming, and provide reason for optimism about our NAEP 12th grade preparedness initiative, but results from these eight studies alone should not be used to draw conclusions or make inferences about academic preparedness."

Read the results (PDF) of the initial studies discussed by Board members at their November 2010 meeting. More information about the Governing Board can be found at More information about NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness can be found at:

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.