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What Does the NAEP Civics Assessment Measure?

The NAEP civics assessment measures the civics knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are critical to the responsibilities of citizenship in America's constitutional democracy. The assessment is administered to students at grades 4, 8, and 12. The NAEP Civics Framework (803K PDF), the blueprint for the assessment, was developed by the National Assessment Governing Board and recommends that the assessment should be organized around three main components: knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. A discussion of each component follows.

Civic Knowledge

The civic knowledge component draws heavily on the National Standards for Civics and Government developed by the Center for Civic Education and covers the broad range of content that forms the basis of civic understanding. It is organized into five main categories, expressed as questions.

  • What are civic life, politics, and government?
  • What are the foundations of the American political system?
  • How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purpose, values, and principles of American democracy?
  • What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs?
  • What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?

Intellectual Skills

The intellectual skills component covers those skills of mind and action that allow individuals to apply civic knowledge to good effect. The framework distinguishes three skills, though they are clearly overlapping.

  • identifying and describing;
  • explaining and analyzing; and
  • evaluating, taking, and defending positions.

Civic Dispositions

The component of civic dispositions, according to the framework, "refers to the traits of private and public character essential to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy." The framework defines five dispositions as follows:

  • becoming an independent member of society;
  • assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen;
  • respecting individual worth and human dignity;
  • participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful, and effective manner; and
  • promoting the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.

Look at the distribution of questions in the civics assessment.

Sample Questions booklets for the 2010 civics assessment are available for download.

For more in-depth information about the objectives of the civics assessment, explore the NAEP civics framework (803K PDF).


Last updated 13 April 2011 (JM)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education