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Expert Panel Recommends Major Changes in NAEP Background Questions, Greater Use in Reporting

Expert Panel Recommends Major Changes in NAEP Background Questions, Greater Use in Reporting


WASHINGTON (March 21, 2012) — A six-member expert panel, headed by former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Marshall S. Smith, has recommended major changes in the background questions asked as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and much greater use of background or contextual data in reporting NAEP results.

The panel's 46-page report was submitted March 2 to the National Assessment Governing Board at its meeting in New Orleans. The Governing Board convened the expert panel last fall to recommend how to make better use of existing background questions and to propose an analytic agenda for additional topics and questions that would be useful in understanding student achievement and developing education policy.

The Board plans to consider the panel report over the next few months and will be gathering public comment on the recommended changes. Over the past 25 years, hundreds of background or noncognitive questions have been asked by NAEP of the students, teachers, and schools in its samples. These have been meant to enrich the reporting of NAEP's academic results but for more than a decade little use has been made of them in NAEP reports.

The panel called the background questions "a potentially critical national information resource" that is "largely underused." It said the background questionnaires could be used to describe school and home resources that support learning; track implementation of policy initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards; and identify factors associated with high-performing and high-growth states and urban districts. "This domestic effort," the panel said, "would parallel the extensive reporting of background factors in PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Student Assessment)" that have had considerable impact in recent years.

Specific recommendations include:

  • Background questionnaires should be redesigned with coherent clusters of questions in high-priority areas.
  • Variables that describe socio-economic status must be improved. To obtain richer data, questions should be rotated in different years, assessment samples divided, and questionnaire length increased.
  • Some questions from PISA and TIMSS should be included in NAEP to obtain international comparisons.
  • Data should be used in analytical reports that focus on key education issues, such as implementation of the Common Core state standards, teacher evaluations, and online learning.

Please see panel membership (PDF)full report (PDF)panel executive summary (PDF),
and a PowerPoint summary (PDF).

Lawrence Feinberg

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.