NAEP Instruments → Cognitive Items and Instruments → Development of the Science Cognitive Items and Instruments

Development of the Science Cognitive Items and Instruments


Student Booklets: 2011
Student Booklets: 2009
Student Booklets: 2005
Student Booklets: 2000

Number of items: 2011
Number of items: 2009
Number of items: 2005
Number of items: 2000

Common blocks: 2011
Common blocks: 2005
Common blocks: 2000

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The instruments used in the NAEP science assessment are usually composed of blocks of cognitive items from the previous NAEP assessment, as well as blocks that are newly developed for the current year's assessment. Administering the same blocks of items across years allows for the reporting of trends in science performance.

Developing new sets of items makes it possible to release some items to the public. In an assessment year, one or more blocks at each grade are released to the public and can be accessed via the NAEP Questions Tool.

The NAEP science framework guides the item development efforts. In 2009, a new science framework was introduced, and most of the items used were newly developed; there were no common blocks between the 2009 assessment and those used in previous years. This same framework guided the development of the 2011 assessment; therefore, results from both the 2009 and 2011 assessments can be compared to each other. In addition, the 2011 science assessment was administered so that results could be linked to the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Items are written by NAEP test development staff, with input from members of the NAEP Science Standing Committee (see the current committee members) as well as from elementary, secondary, and postsecondary teachers from around the United States. All assessment materials are reviewed by specialists in science education, measurement, assessment development, accessibility, accommodations, and bias. The cognitive items are then assembled into 25-minute blocks.

Each science cognitive block contains a range of questions covering three fields of science:

  • Earth and space science,
  • physical science, and
  • life science.

Following approval from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the cognitive blocks are assembled into booklets and distributed to schools for the administration of the assessment.

Click here for more information about what the NAEP science assessment measures.

Last updated 14 July 2014 (GF)