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Authorization and Oversight

The Education Sciences Reform Act (P.L. 107-279) is the governing statute of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This law stipulates that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) develops and administers NAEP, and reports NAEP results. It also describes the National Assessment Governing Board’s role in setting for the assessment program.

Below is an overview of the legislation that defines roles and responsibilities for the NAEP program.

National Center for Education Statistics

The mission of NCES is ‘to collect and analyze education information and statistics in a manner that meets the highest methodological standards.’ Additionally, NCES statistics must be timely, objective, neutral, and unbiased. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget provides guidance on responsibilities and statistical practices to which several federal statistical agencies, particularly NCES, must adhere (OMB Statistical Policy Directive No. 1). NCES is responsible for maintaining data credibility through its assessment design, collection, analysis, release, and dissemination procedures.

NAEP is a program within NCES that the Commissioner oversees, ensuring that its assessments fulfill legislative mandates and Governing Board policies. The law mandates that NCES conduct national assessments in reading and mathematics for grades 4 and 8 at least once every two years, and for grade 12 once every four years. Additional assessment subjects—such as writing, science, history, geography, civics, and arts—are assessed on a varying three- to eight-year cycle. NCES also conducts long-term trend assessments of academic achievement at ages 9, 13, and 17 in reading and mathematics.

In order to report NAEP results that are nationally and regionally representative, NCES sets standards for student data collection and the random sampling processes. Additionally, the Commissioner is responsible for securing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about students, their academic achievement, and their families. Information with respect to individual schools also must remain confidential. NCES reports NAEP results for selected student characteristics, including race/ethnicity, eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, which serves as an indicator of socioeconomic status, and school location. These data are published in official reports and data tools, allowing users to perform their own analyses.

NCES is responsible upholding the prohibition of using NAEP items and data to rank, compare, or otherwise evaluate individual students or teachers, or to provide rewards or sanctions for individual students, teachers, schools or local educational agencies. Furthermore, NAEP cannot be used to establish, require, or influence the standards, assessments, curriculum, or instructional practices of States or local educational agencies.

National Assessment Governing Board

The duties of the Governing Board as the following:

  • Selection of assessment subjects for administration;
  • Development of student achievement levels;
  • Development of assessment objectives and specifications that reflect current professional standards;
  • Assessment reviews that involve active participation of teachers, curriculum specialists, local school administrators, parents, and the public;
  • Design of assessment methodology to ensure that assessment items are valid and reliable;
  • Measurement of student academic achievement in grades 4, 8, and 12;
  • Development of guidelines for reporting and disseminating results;
  • Development of standards and procedures for regional and national comparisons;
  • Take appropriate actions needed to improve the form, content, use, and reporting of results of any assessment; and,
  • Plan and execution of the initial public release event of NAEP reports.

The Commissioner meets with the Governing Board routinely to coordinate NAEP duties and activities. The Commissioner also shares with the Governing Board actions that the Department of Education has made in relation to advice from the Governing Board.

To see the complete text of the law, please visit https://ies.ed.gov/director/pdf/ESRAreauth.pdf.


Last updated 19 March 2018 (DS)