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Governing Board Awards Academic Preparedness Contract to NORC For Alignment Studies

Governing Board Awards Contract to NORC
to Begin College Academic Preparedness Research
With 8th Grade NAEP

WASHINGTON – (October 17, 2014) — The National Assessment Governing Board has awarded an academic preparedness research contract to NORC at the University of Chicago, which will conduct content alignment studies with the ACT Explore assessments in reading and mathematics and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading and Mathematics assessment at grade 8.

NORC—an independent research organization specializing in social science research across a number of public policy areas, including health, education, and economics—has subcontracted with the Wisconsin Center for Education Products & Services (WCEPS), which focuses on education research and development in partnership with the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

For the past decade, the Governing Board has studied the potential use of 12th grade NAEP reading and mathematics assessments as indicators of whether students are academically prepared for education and job training opportunities after high school. One of the five preparedness research areas involves content comparisons and alignment between NAEP and widely used examinations for college admissions, post-secondary course placement, and workplace skills. These comparisons serve as the foundation for most of the Board's research, especially for the statistical relationship studies, which link NAEP to other tests and data. These newest content comparisons are the first to be conducted with 8th grade NAEP.

A total of two alignment studies will be implemented with this contract: one for reading and one for mathematics. The purpose of these content alignment studies of NAEP and ACT Explore is to evaluate the extent to which 8th grade NAEP is aligned in content and complexity with the Explore assessment. The Explore assessment, owned and developed by ACT, Inc., is administered to students in grades 8 and 9. Explore contains four multiple-choice tests—English, mathematics, reading, and science—designed to measure students’ curriculum-related knowledge and the complex cognitive skills important for future education and careers. It is linked to the ACT assessment and measures the extent to which students are on track to achieve preparedness for college and career readiness by the end of grade 12.

The results of these NAEP-Explore content comparisons will inform interpretations from statistical linking studies of 2013 results of NAEP and Explore in grade 8 reading and mathematics. Explore has served as an established measure of being on track for academic preparedness outcomes and is backed by several years of ACT research. Given that the same samples of eighth-grade students took NAEP and Explore in 2013, the Explore assessment was an ideal choice for exploring the feasibility of extending the NAEP academic preparedness research from grade 12 to grade 8. ACT has recently discontinued the use of Explore; it has been replaced with ACT Aspire. However, the results of these content alignment studies will be valuable to educators and researchers in evaluating the student achievement at the 8th grade level and progress toward college and career readiness.

The contract with NORC was awarded in the amount of $449,044 and issued under full and open competition. The period of performance is 12 months. To support the provision of ACT proprietary Explore data, the Governing Board issued a sole source contract with ACT, Inc. NORC will work with ACT to receive data and materials that will be used in the content alignment studies, and will consult with ACT assessment staff to support the work and analyses.

The procurement award and solicitation details can be found at:

More information on the Governing’s work in this area can be found at:

Stephaan Harris