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Overseeing the Nation's Report Card: The Creation and Evolution of the National Assessment Governing Board

Overseeing the Nation’s Report Card:
The Creation and Evolution of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)

The tenth anniversary of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) provides an opportunity to reflect on the agency’s past as well as to reexamine some of its policies. NAGB was established to oversee the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, which were created in the mid-1960s. Therefore, it will be useful to trace the development of the NAEP assessments to appreciate why it was thought necessary to establish NAGB in 1988.

After the analysis of NAGB’s creation in 1988, this paper will investigate the background characteristics of the Board members and their attendance at NAGB meetings. The staffing and financing of NAGB and the relationship between the agency and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will then be considered. The paper also will examine two of the major issues addressed by NAGB—the reporting of state-level NAEP data and the setting of student performance standards. The paper concludes with my personal observations about NAGB’s development and functioning during the past ten years and some recommendations for future improvements.

Given the modest scope of this project, a number of other important issues must await future analysis. For example, the setting of test content frameworks and the debates over the types of background questions that should be gathered could have been investigated. This project was also unable to examine the advisability of adjusting NAEP scores to account for different student backgrounds and experiences or to consider the statistical techniques that should be employed in analyzing NAEP data. The total amount of monies spent on NAEP during the past three decades should be investigated, as well as its overall impact on educational reform in the United States. Given the limited time and resources available for this project and the disappointing lack of adequate secondary analyses, these topics could not be pursued in more detail. This study hopefully will provide a useful introduction to the history of NAGB and stimulate additional research in the near future.

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