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More About NAEP U.S. History

The NAEP U.S. history assessment presents a broad view of what our students know about U.S. history in the context of democracy, culture, technological and economic changes, and our nation’s changing world role.

On this page, learn more about:

The NAEP U.S. history framework

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject. Frameworks incorporate ideas and input from subject area experts, school administrators, policymakers, teachers, parents, and others. The U.S. History Framework PDF File (1.22 MB) describes the assessment content and how students' responses are evaluated. This framework shaped the U.S. history assessments in 1994, 2001, 2006, and in 2010.

The assessment exercises and scoring criteria were developed by a committee of content and measurement experts to capture the goals of the framework. The framework, which describes the goals of the U.S. history assessment and what kind of exercises it ought to feature, was created by the Board through a national comprehensive developmental process involving science teachers and researchers, measurement experts, policymakers, and members of the general public. The U.S. History Committee was instrumental in developing the assessment, guided by the framework.

The framework describes the types of questions to be included in the assessment, as well as how the questions should be designed and scored; it specifies that the assessment should be organized around three components:

Themes in U.S. History,
Periods of U.S. History, and
Ways of Knowing and Thinking about U.S. History

Four historical themes are the core organizing structure of the framework, and eight chronological periods are used in developing the assessment to ensure appropriate chronological coverage. Also used as a guide to develop questions are two ways of knowing and thinking about U.S. history: historical knowledge and perspective, and historical analysis and interpretation.

See What Does the NAEP U.S. History Assessment Measure? for further information about the dimensions, and see the distribution of questions across historical themes and historical periods for grades 4, 8, and 12.

Assessment question formats 

At grades 4, 8, and 12, the assessment consisted of multiple-choice questions, developed to address the full range of knowledge and skill areas outlined in the U.S. history framework document; and constructed-response tasks consisting of short- and extended-response questions.

To learn more, see questions from previous NAEP U.S. history assessments in the NAEP Questions Tool.

NAEP also gives questionnaires to teachers, students, and schools that are part of the NAEP sample. Responses to these questionnaires give NAEP information about school policies affecting U.S. history instruction, as well as information about schools' educational resources.

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Number of students who took the assessment

The NAEP 2010 U.S. history assessment was administered nationally to students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in public and private schools. More than 7,000 grade 4 students; 11,000 grade 8 students; and 12,000 grade 12 students were assessed. See details about participation rates and about sample size and target population.

NAEP does not, and is not designed to, report on the performance of individual students. Instead it assesses groups of the student population from representative national samples. For example, NAEP reports results for male and female students, Black and White students, and students in different regions of the country. Samples are selected using a complex sampling design.

Permitted accommodations

NAEP has always endeavored to assess all students selected as a part of its sampling process, including students who are classified by their schools as students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners (ELL). The decision to exclude any of these students is made by school personnel. See the types of accommodations permitted for SD and ELL students.

Find inclusion and accommodations information for this assessment:

View the percentages of SD and ELL students identified, excluded, and assessed in U.S. history.
View the types of accommodations permitted and their rates of use.

Assessment sample

NAEP assesses representative samples of students rather than the entire population of students. The sample selection process utilizes a probability sample design in which each school and each student has a known probability of being selected (the probabilities are proportionate to the estimated number of students in the grade assessed). Samples are selected according to a multistage design, with students drawn from within sampled public and private schools nationwide. See a diagram of sample selection for NAEP state assessments for a non-technical overview of the sampling process.

The Common Core of Data (CCD) file, a comprehensive list of operating public schools in each jurisdiction that is compiled each school year by NCES, served as the sampling frame for the selection of public schools in each state/jurisdiction.

The Private School Survey (PSS), a survey of all U.S. private schools carried out biennially by the Census Bureau under contract to NCES, served as the sampling frame for private schools. The results are based on the combined samples of public and private schools.

Because each school that participated in the assessment, and each student assessed, represents only a portion of the larger population of interest, the results are weighted to make appropriate inferences between the student samples and the respective populations from which they are drawn. Sampling weights are adjusted for the disproportionate representation of some groups in the selected sample. This includes oversampling of schools with high concentrations of students from certain racial/ethnic groups and the lower sampling rates of students who attend very small schools. Read more about the technical aspects of the NAEP sample design.

View a summary of the national target populations for the 2010 U.S. history assessment.
View a summary of the student and school participation rates.

Additional resources

Learn more about NAEP, the nation's largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what students know and can do in core subjects.

View the NAEP 2010 U.S. History Report Card.

Explore the most recent NAEP results in any subject on the website of The Nation’s Report Card.

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Last updated 29 July 2012 (NB)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education