NAEP: The National Assessment of Educational Progress
Q. Should we just scrap all these
expensive, confusing standardized tests, and just go with one nationwide test
that everybody would have to take? Then we could compare from school to school,
from city to city, and from state to state.
have something like that. It's the NAEP (pronounced "nape") - the National Assessment of Educational
Progress. Housed within the U.S. Department of Education, in the National
Center for Education Statistics, its nickname is "The Nation's Report Card."
has been around since 1969, with basically the same questions given to 4th,
8th and 12th graders over the years in order to track
results over many years. Scores aren't returned for individual students or
schools, but are obtainable by certain officials. Scores are published on an
aggregate basis for geographic regions and student subgroups separated out by
age, gender, racial background and so forth.
As far as
evaluating student abilities in math and reading, the NAEP has been a solid,
reliable tool. Despite the fact that per-pupil school spending in the United
States has more than doubled in the 30+ years of NAEP, even after adjusted for
inflation, NAEP test scores have remained essentially flat.
important use of NAEP data is to compare student test scores for a given state
on the NAEP, to student test scores as reported from the state's own statewide
standardized testing program. In a number of states, there is a huge gap
between the state results and the NAEP results. The state results are almost
always much, much better. That creates a credibility gap in the eyes of the
public, considering the possibility that state officials "dumbed down" the
statewide tests and made far more students pass, based on the scores, to try to
make themselves look better on paper.
of cross-referencing ability is considered crucial information from an
accountability standpoint. So are studies that are possible with long-term NAEP
data. For example, Margaret Raymond and Eric Hanushek of Stanford University
have shown that states with "high-stakes" accountability sanctions on their
statewide testing programs tend to have higher test scores among 4th
and 8th graders on the NAEP. That suggests that high-stakes
accountability measures are an effective incentive to education officials to
deliver math education better, and avoid the sanctions.
Stanford colleagues Martin Carnous and Susanna Loeb showed that the tougher the
accountability sanctions, the higher the NAEP scores, markedly so for black and
Hispanic students. That implies that raising the bar helps the kids who need
help the most.
NAEP data allowed researchers Harold Wenglinsky et. al. to show that teachers with
master's degrees do NOT make a difference in student NAEP scores (see p. 31
of the Conclusion) but that majoring in math or science in college does, and so
do certain classroom practices such as hands-on activities. The data also
showed that students did WORSE when their teachers had taken a lot of
"classroom management" course work. This suggests that school districts might
use their professional development budgets more wisely than paying for
teachers' master's degrees in education.
it is given only a scientifically-selected spot-check basis now, to a handful
of students nationwide, many observers believe that the powers that be want to
do exactly as you suggest, and switch to the NAEP as "the" standardized test
for all. You can tell by the eerily similar language in NAEP documentation and
federal education legislation over the past few decades, Goals 2000 and No
Child Left Behind, that the NAEP is slated to become the national test if
circumstances can be arranged.
with that is that it would be sooooo easy to insert a certain political point
of view into the questions. Government education officials would be contracting
with the company that writes the test questions, the Educational Testing Service, accountable to the National Assessment Governing Board, which is
currently composed of 26 people, mostly politicians and bureaucrats, appointed
by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
at some point in the future, the President is politically left-of-center, and
Presidential appointees would naturally reflect the points of view that are
normally associated with liberal political opinions. So would it be so
surprising if the questions would reveal how much in agreement or disagreement
the student is on political hot potatoes? The bias might or might not be
deliberate, but test questions could easily be written so that, if you held the
opposite point of view on some issue than the prevailing view in the
government, your answer could be marked "wrong."
see what a powerful political tool that could be, to shape public opinion, keep
local and state education officials in line, and act as a gatekeeper for
everything from grants to government sanctions.
there's the whole area of data collection and data mining with the NAEP. Since
a lot of demographic-type and rather personal questions are asked of the
students in order to group their responses with others similarly situated, the
NAEP does contain individual student data down to the microrecord level. If the
questions become more and more politicized, and the results can be stored and
exchanged, who knows what use that data could be put to in the future . . .
that parents and students won't like, but can't do anything about.
Homework: In fact, it's already happening. Read more about calls to turn the NAEP
into more of a tool for assessing of attitudes, values, opinions and beliefs
vs. testing of academic content on: