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The NAEP Writing Achievement Levels

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 12

Specific definitions of the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels for grades 4, 8, and 12 are presented in the tables that follow. In 2011, the writing assessment was administered at grades 8 and 12 only. The achievement-level descriptions for grades 8 and 12 below reflect new level setting that took place after the 2011 assessment. The grade 4 achievement-level descriptions are those set after the 1998 assessment and used for the 1998, 2002, and 2007 reports.

The achievement levels are cumulative. Therefore, students performing at the Proficient level also display the competencies associated with the Basic level, and students at the Advanced level also demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with both the Basic and the Proficient levels. For each achievement level listed, the scale score that corresponds to the beginning of that level is shown in parentheses. In writing, the scale ranges from 0 to 300 for each grade. These achievement levels are proposed for first drafts, not final or polished student writing, that are generated within limited constraints in a large-scale assessment environment.

Find general information about achievement levels and the detailed descriptions for other NAEP subjects.

Grade 4

Basic
(115)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to produce a somewhat organized response within the time allowed that shows a general grasp of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should include some supporting details. Its grammar, spelling, and capitalization should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader, although there may be mistakes that get in the way of meaning.

Proficient
(176)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to produce an organized response within the time allowed that shows an understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should include details that support and develop the main idea of the piece, and its form, content, and language should show that these students are aware of the audience they are expected to address. The grammar, spelling, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader; there may be some mistakes, but these should not get in the way of meaning.

Advanced
(225)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to produce an effective, well-developed response within the time allowed that shows a clear understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should be clearly organized, making use of techniques such as consistency in topic or theme, sequencing, and a clearly marked beginning and ending. It should make use of precise and varied language to speak to the audience the students are expected to address, and it should include details and elaboration that support and develop the main idea of the piece. Their writing may also show signs of analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. The grammar, spelling, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate clearly; mistakes should be so few and so minor that a reader can easily skim over them.


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Grade 8

Basic
(120)

Eighth-grade students writing at the Basic level should be able to address the tasks appropriately and mostly accomplish their communicative purposes. Their texts should be coherent and effectively structured. Many of the ideas in their texts should be developed effectively. Supporting details and examples should be relevant to the main ideas they support. Voice should align with the topic, purpose, and audience. Texts should include appropriately varied uses of simple, compound, and complex sentences. Words and phrases should be relevant to the topics, purposes, and audiences. Knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be made evident; however, there may be some errors in the texts that impede meaning.

Proficient
(173)

Eighth-grade students writing at the Proficient level should be able to develop responses that clearly accomplish their communicative purposes. Their texts should be coherent and well structured, and they should include appropriate connections and transitions. Most of the ideas in the texts should be developed logically, coherently, and effectively. Supporting details and examples should be relevant to the main ideas they support, and contribute to overall communicative effectiveness. Voice should be relevant to the tasks and support communicative effectiveness. Texts should include a variety of simple, compound, and complex sentence types combined effectively. Words and phrases should be chosen thoughtfully and used in ways that contribute to communicative effectiveness. Solid knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be evident throughout the texts. There may be some errors, but these errors should not impede meaning.

Advanced
(211)

Eighth-grade students writing at the Advanced level should be able to construct skillful responses that accomplish their communicative purposes effectively. Their texts should be coherent and well structured throughout, and they should include effective connections and transitions. Ideas in the texts should be developed logically, coherently, and effectively. Supporting details and examples should skillfully and effectively support and extend the main ideas in the texts. Voice should be distinct and enhance communicative effectiveness. Texts should include a well-chosen variety of sentence types, and the sentence structure variations should enhance communicative effectiveness. Words and phrases should be chosen strategically, with precision, and in ways that enhance communicative effectiveness. An extensive knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be evident throughout the texts. Appropriate use of these features should enhance communicative effectiveness. There may be a few errors, but these errors should not impede meaning.


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Grade 12

Basic
(122)

Twelfth-grade students writing at the Basic level should be able to respond effectively to the tasks and accomplish their communicative purposes. Their texts should be coherent and well structured. Most of the ideas in their texts should be developed effectively. Relevant details and examples should be used to support and extend the main ideas in the texts. Voice should support the communicative purposes of the texts. Texts should include appropriately varied simple, compound, and complex sentence types. Words and phrases should be suitable for the topics, purposes, and audiences. Substantial knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be clearly evident. There may be some errors in the texts, but these errors should not generally impede meaning.

Proficient
(173)

Twelfth-grade students writing at the Proficient level should address the tasks effectively and fully accomplish their communicative purposes. Their texts should be coherent and well structured with respect to these purposes, and they should include well-crafted and effective connections and transitions. Their ideas should be developed in a logical, clear, and effective manner. Relevant details and examples should support and extend the main ideas of the texts and contribute to their overall communicative effectiveness. Voice should be relevant to the tasks and contribute to overall communicative effectiveness. Texts should include a variety of simple, compound, and complex sentence types that contribute to overall communicative effectiveness. Words and phrases should be chosen purposefully and used skillfully to enhance the effectiveness of the texts. A solid knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be evident throughout the texts. There may be some errors in the texts, but they should not impede meaning.

Advanced
(210)

Twelfth-grade students writing at the Advanced level should be able to address the tasks strategically, fully accomplish their communicative purposes, and demonstrate a skillful and creative approach to constructing and delivering their messages. Their texts should be coherent and well structured; they should include skillfully constructed and effective connections and transitions; and they should be rhetorically powerful. All of the ideas in their texts should be developed clearly, logically, effectively, and in focused and sophisticated ways. Supporting details and examples should be well crafted; they should skillfully support and extend the main ideas; and they should strengthen both communicative effectiveness and rhetorical power of the texts. A distinct voice that enhances the communicative effectiveness and rhetorical power of the texts should be evident. Texts should include a variety of sentence structures and types that are skillfully crafted and enhance communicative effectiveness and rhetorical power. Words and phrases should be chosen purposefully, with precision, and in ways that enhance communicative effectiveness and rhetorical power. A highly developed knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization, and punctuation should be evident throughout the texts and function in ways that enhance communicative effectiveness and rhetorical power. There may be a few errors in the texts, but they should not impede meaning.


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Last updated 06 August 2012 (JM)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education