Should NAEP Be More Aligned to State Standards?

With much of the educational community asking questions in the wake of last year’s disappointing NAEP scores, an important question is drawing attention: how well does the National Assessment of Educational Progress align to state education standards and assessments, and should that alignment improve?

It’s a question that has been asked for years and that officials at NAEP have hit head on, most recently in an October report by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel.

“NAEP is meant to be reflective of the entirety of what is taught in the United States, and the many changes to standards in the past 10 years have led to questions about the extent to which NAEP continues to meet this objective,” the report said. “The NVS Panel has conducted several studies to investigate this issue … and has found some variations in the alignment between state and NAEP standards across different NAEP grades and subjects.”

NAEP has initiated many studies in recent years to address alignment, and the results are obviously of interest to states and districts, which are required by federal law to administer assessments aligned to state standards and yet often judged by NAEP scores that may not be so closely aligned.

“States and districts have informally posited that, if the alignment between NAEP frameworks and their own content standards were closer, then their NAEP scores might be higher,” the report said. “Stated another way, there are concerns that NAEP may be underreporting the actual abilities of their students—and trends in achievement—because of some degree of misalignment.”

Tell us what you think: should NAEP be more aligned to state education standards? And if so, how and why? Please use the comments below or email to tell us your viewpoint.

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One response to “Should NAEP Be More Aligned to State Standards?” -->
  1. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in various subjects across the nation, states, and in some urban districts. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP has provided important information about how students are performing academically since 1969. ( As a Psychometrician, I believe one of the greatest strengths of NAEP is the ability to measure students over time using a common scale. This scale provides for an external validation measure of student achievement over time since the scale has been held constant. Unless NAEP is no longer measuring relevant content that students are learning in classrooms, my belief is that NAEP should not realign itself to state standards. If NAEP realigns to state standards, it runs the risk of losing it’s longitudinal scale that has been a consistent yardstick for decades. In my opinion, this would be a disservice to the educational community at large. To investigate whether NAEP has become outdated in mathematics and reading, let’s take a closer look at what those subtests measure.

    The NAEP mathematics assessment at grades 4 and 8 measures students’ knowledge and skills in mathematics and their ability to solve problems in mathematical and real-world contexts. Students are assessed in five broad areas of mathematical content: Number properties and operations, measurement, geometry, data analysis/statistics/probability, and algebra. Each question also makes certain demands on students’ thinking. Each question is classified as low, moderate, or high complexity.

    The NAEP reading framework includes two types of texts to be used in the assessment: literary and informational. Assessment questions measure one of the three cognitive targets: 1) locate and recall, 2) integrate and interpret, and 3) critique and evaluate.

    Upon reviewing the mathematics and reading frameworks along with sample items, it seems to me that NAEP is still measuring relevant content. Given this, it is of my humble opinion that National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), who oversees the develop of NAEP, should hold their course. The benefits of the the NAEP longitudinal scale and external benchmark bring a tremendous benefit to education and policy makers for evaluating the progress (or lack thereof) of American students. If NAGB changes the construct of what NAEP is measuring, the common,longitudinal scale is weakened.