The instruments used in the 2008 NAEP arts assessment (conducted at grade 8 only) are composed of blocks of cognitive items from the previous NAEP assessment in 1997. While the framework specifies that students' art knowledge and skills be measured in four arts disciplines (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts), due to budget constraints in 2008, the arts assessment was administered in music and visual arts only.
Additionally, three arts processes—responding, creating, and performing—are central to students' experiences in each of the disciplines. While the responding process refers to observing, describing, analyzing, and evaluating works of art, the creating process refers to expressing ideas and feelings in the form of an original work of art. Although not assessed in 2008, the performing process refers to interpreting and re-creating an existing work of art. Due to budget constraints, only the responding process in music and both the responding and creating processes in visual arts were assessed in 2008.
The responding process in music and visual arts was assessed with multiple-choice questions and constructed-response questions that required students to produce answers of a few words or sentences. Only the responding process questions are scaled on the 0–300 NAEP arts scale. The constructed-response questions that assessed the creating process included questions that required students to generate written answers and to create original works of visual art. Although the assessment questions administered in 2008 were selected from those used in the 1997 assessment, due to changes in scoring procedures and materials, the 2008 score results in music and visual arts could not be directly compared to the results in 1997. The creating task score for each creating question (task) is the sum of the percentage of students receiving full credit and a fraction of the percentage of students receiving partial credit. The individual scores are then averaged together to report an average creating task score for the entire set of the visual arts creating questions.
In the 2008 assessment years, one or more blocks at grade 8 were released to the public and can be accessed via the NAEP Questions Tool.
The NAEP arts framework and the specifications document act as guides for item development efforts. Items are written by a team composed of NAEP item development staff, kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade teachers, and postsecondary teachers around the country. All assessment materials are reviewed by members of the Arts Standing Committee (see the current committee members), as well as other specialists in education and assessment development.
Following approval from the National Center for Education Statistics, the blocks are assembled into booklets and distributed to schools for the administration of the assessment.