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NAEP Data Collection → Study Design and the Data Collection Plan

Study Design and the Data Collection Plan


National Main Assessments

State Assessments

Trial Urban District Assessments

Long-Term Trend Assessments

Special Studies

Pilot and Field Tests

The study design determines the schedule of data collection activities and the general structure of the data collection operational plan. Aspects of this design include:

With the exception of small pilot tests of computer administration, NAEP assessments are given in a pencil-and-paper format to sampled students in person by a trained administrator during the school day. Questionnaires are used to obtain information regarding the characteristics of teachers and schools and the inclusion of students in the assessment. Student demographic information is obtained from schools at the time they provide students lists for sample selection. 

Each assessment cycle includes one or more of these types of NAEP assessments:

The general structure of the data collection plan is similar regardless of the types of assessments included in a particular year, although there may be differences in the schedule, the staffing plan, and some procedures.

Generally, assessments and field tests are conducted simultaneously. Some field tests and special studies are administered on a school's NAEP assessment day but separately from the assessments, while others must be administered on days other than the NAEP assessment day.

Prior to 2002, NAEP used a two-pronged approach for administering assessments: main national and long-term-trend national components, pilot and field tests, and special studies were administered by NAEP field staff, while the state component was administered by state personnel under the oversight of NAEP. Therefore, NAEP trained two different staffs (one national, one state) with distinct missions to conduct these components.

Provisions of Public Law 107-110 (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) resulted in substantial changes to the conduct of assessments beginning with the 2002 assessment year. These changes are summarized as follows:

  • Mandatory Public School Participation. Any jurisdiction or local education agency receiving federal Title I funds is required to participate in a biennial state assessment of reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. Previously, public school participation in the state assessment was voluntary and subject to the discretion of state, district, and school personnel.

  • NAEP Administration of State Component. To reduce burden on school staff, NAEP field staff administer the state component, thereby eliminating the two-pronged approach to component administration previously in force.

  • Shortened Main National Component Field Period. The assessment field period for both the main national and state components is designated as a six-week period extending from the last week of January through the first week of March, bringing the national and stats components into alignment. Previously, the national component was conducted during the 12 weeks between the first week of January through the last week of March.

  • NAEP State Coordinators. The legislation authorizes federally funded NAEP State Coordinator positions (one per state and for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to coordinate NAEP activities with local education agencies and public schools.

  • Parent/Guardian Notification of Student Participation. The legislation requires that parents and/or guardians of students selected to participate in NAEP be informed before the assessment that their child may be excused from participation for any reason, is not required to finish the assessment, and is not required to answer any test question.

  • Increased Availability of Testing Accommodations. NAEP offers accommodations to all students who need them to demonstrate their knowledge and ability. Learn more about the history of the NAEP inclusion policy.

With mandatory public school participation and NAEP staff administration of the state component, the state and national school samples and field staff were combined beginning in 2002.

In addition, NAEP has supported a study to determine the feasibility of conducting urban district assessments as a regular component in addition to the national and state components. Since 2002, the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) has been administered in selected large urban districts concurrently with the state component.

Learn more about the TUDA study to understand how it is integrated with NAEP.

Last updated 15 October 2008 (GF)

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