The instruments used in the NAEP civics assessment are composed of blocks of cognitive items from the previous NAEP assessment, as well as blocks that are newly developed for the current assessment. Administering the same blocks of items across years allows for the reporting of trends in civics performance. At the same time, developing new sets of items makes it possible to release some items for public use. In all assessment years, one or more blocks at each grade are released to the public and can be accessed via the NAEP Questions Tool.
The NAEP civics framework and the specifications documents 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 Civics Standing Committee (see the current committee members), as well as other specialists in education and assessment development.
In 2010, the cognitive items were assembled into 25-minute blocks containing a range of questions covering five civics content areas:
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.
The number of cognitive items in the civics assessment is detailed in the NAEP Analysis and Scaling section.