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NAEP Design Advancements

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is committed to using the latest research and cutting-edge technologies in developing assessments, and collaborates with a wide range of advisory groups on content, modeling, methodology, and reporting.

Past, current, and future initiatives for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) include

  • evidence-centered design (ECD),
  • new item types,
  • enhanced survey questionnaires and index scores,
  • NAEP advisory committees and conferences,
  • new assessment design, and
  • the Survey Assessment Innovation Lab (SAIL).

Evidence-Centered Design in NAEP

To ensure that the assessment development process remains innovative, NCES applies evidence-centered design (ECD) principles to NAEP assessments. ECD provides an evidence-driven framework for designing, producing, and delivering assessments. It is used as a tool to support developing assessments with clear links for measuring and reporting goals.

In NAEP, multidisciplinary design teams establish clear goals and assessment designs. Teams include cognitive scientists, user experience professionals, assessment developers, and psychometric staff. The ECD process requires documented, explicit links among the purpose for a test, the claims made about test takers, the evidence supporting those claims, and the test takers’ responses to the tasks that provide the evidence. The ECD process provides a logical and systematic method of developing NAEP assessment and tasks and questions based on the knowledge and skills outlined in subject frameworks.

A Brief Introduction to Evidence-Centered Design offers additional information.

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Survey Questionnaires and Index Scores

NAEP’s survey data helps policymakers, researchers, educators, and the public understand the context of student achievement results and enables meaningful comparison among student groups.

Historically, NAEP has designed its survey questionnaires around single questions, and questionnaire results were therefore reported for single questions. In 2014, the program enhanced the survey questionnaire design and reporting approach to examine information of key interest to NAEP audiences. Specifically, while some survey questions are still analyzed and reported as single items (for example, gender), several questions on the same topic are combined into indices measuring a single underlying construct or concept.

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Outline of students raising hands.

Advisory Groups

NAEP Validity Studies (NVS) PanelNCES collaborates with NVS, an independent panel that meets to discuss validity considerations for NAEP, and the Design Committee (DAC), which has been instrumental in the transition to a digitally based assessment.
The NAEP Validity Studies Panel, formed in 1995, provides a technical review of NAEP plans and products and identifies technical concerns and promising techniques worthy of future study

Survey Assessment Innovation Lab

The Survey Assessment Innovations Lab (SAIL) was formed as a result of the 2013 Future of NAEP conference. SAIL, part of an expanded assessment research and development initiative, supports and oversees a portfolio of innovative research studies essential to keeping NAEP at the forefront of innovation and best practices. Current efforts focus on

  • what is being assessed: new models of 21st-century skills;
  • how it is being assessed: new technologies to simulate and capture complex human interactions; and
  • scoring and reporting: innovations in automated scoring, complex modeling, and score reporting.

Current NAEP SAIL projects include

  • improving assessment of key science practices, skills, and ideas through a tablet-based NAEP virtual laboratory;
  • assessing students’ inquiry and information-gathering skills in an immersive environment; and
  • capturing hard-to-measure STEM constructs with virtual objects and manipulatives.

This page will include links to the results of these studies as they become available.

Last updated 07 March 2024 (DS)